Morocco’s rugged Rif Mountains have long been renowned for their cannabis but traditional varieties are being smoked out by foreign hybrids offering higher yields and greater potency.
The local strain of marijuana, known as Beldiya, is coveted by aficionados but is gradually disappearing from the fields in the North African kingdom.
Nowadays in Ketama, a region in the heart of the northern Rif, a strain called “Critical” is king.
Hicham, a 27-year-old cannabis farmer, says that he grows Critical because “the new imported seeds give a much higher yield.”
Major cannabis producers decide what to plant and “hybrid plants have become a market all on their own,” said Moroccan anthropologist Khalid Mouna, who has written a thesis on the economics of Ketama’s cannabis production.
Critical, which Mouna said comes from the Netherlands, is the latest hybrid created in laboratories in Europe or North America to be introduced to Morocco.
With names like “Pakistana”, “Amnesia” and “Gorilla”, hybrids are popular for their potency and affordability.
Critical sells for 2,500 dirhams per kilo ($252, 230 euros), while Beldiya goes for up to 10,000 dirhams per kilo, local sources told AFP.
Morocco has long been a leading producer and exporter of hashish — refined cannabis resin — even though the production, sale and consumption of drugs is illegal in the country.
A quarter of hashish seizures worldwide originated from Morocco between 2013 and 2017, according to the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime.
While Morocco’s cannabis cultivation is falling, the adoption of hybrids means hashish production has remained stable.
In 2003, 134,000 hectares (330,000 acres) were under cannabis cultivation, falling to 47,500 hectares by 2011 under a large official reconversion programme, according to a 2015 study by the French Monitoring Centre for Drugs and Drug Addiction (OFDT).
But modern hybrid strains produce five to 10 kilos (11 to 22 pounds) of hashish per quintal, a traditional unit of weight equivalent to 100 kilos, compared to a single kilo for kif, as local cannabis is known.
“The substitution of hybrids for kif might explain why the production of Moroccan hashish has barely decreased,” the study said