IN NOVEMBER 2013, it was reported that police had detained 12 people in the southern Spanish province of Málaga and in Ceuta, the country’s north-African enclave, on suspicion of smuggling. The group was said to have transported hashish from Morocco to the southern coast of Spain on boats, and then delivered the drugs to land on jet skis. Nine of the 12 suspects have since been jailed, while the other three await trial.
This was not a one-off incident. In 2012 alone, Spanish authorities seized 325.5 tonnes of hashish, most of it transported into the country by boat, constituting 74 percent of all the hashish seized in Europe that year. Spain’s proximity to Morocco and the difficulty of adequately patrolling its Mediterranean coastline makes it a natural port of entry for narcotics bound for the European market—this in turn makes Morocco an ideal source of hashish for the continent.
According to the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime, Morocco has over 47,000 hectares of land dedicated to cultivating cannabis and harvests about 40,000 tonnes of the crop every year, making it one of the world’s top producers. Kif, a refined form of cannabis that is processed to make hashish, is a significant component of Morocco’s economy: according to the Moroccan Network for the Industrial and Medicinal Use of Marijuana, the country’s cannabis trade generates $10 billion every year, accounting for about 10 percent of the economy.