Strain Hunters Morocco Expedition by Green House Seed Co

The large majority of the hashish produced worldwide (up to 70% of the
total annual world production) comes from a relatively small mountain
region in the North of Morocco, called Rif. In Dutch coffeeshops the
sales of Moroccan hashish are one of the backbones of the industry,
already since the 1970s. And from London to Rome to Madrid to Cape
Town, Moroccan hashish is consumed daily by huge numbers of people.
Moroccan hashish was first produced after Asian and Arab merchants
introduced the cannabis plant to the region, between 1000 and 1200
years ago. But it wasn’t until recently (1960s) that hashish
production reached export-levels, becoming the number one commercial
output in the region of the Rif, and representing a significant
proportion of Morocco’s GDP (unofficial sources estimate it at roughly
30%).
There are social and historical reasons to this: the Berbers,
inhabitants of the Rif, always maintained their independence from the
Arab dynasties ruling the Country. But they were crucial in fighting
European colonial powers for the formation of modern Morocco. In
exchange for the help offered fighting French and Spanish troops, king
Mohammed V granted the Berbers freedom to administer their land. This
freedom allowed them to rapidly convert the local agricultural
production (olives, figs) into cannabis production, and to produce
hashish. To this day, the document granting the Berbers freedom over
the Rif region is exposed in the National Museum in Marrakech.
Since the independence of Morocco from colonial powers in the 1950s,
hashish has become a very sought-after commodity, especially in
Europe. This demand sprouced a rapid process of organization and
restructuring of local society in function of hashish production on a
large, almost industrial scale.
Considering this background, we devoted ourselves to collect
information and connect with local contacts in the spring of 2010.
Strain Hunters Morocco wasn’t just an idea, It now was an ongoing
project, and the continuation of a great adventure.
By March I managed to reconnect with an old friend, a European working
in the Rif for over 10 years, actively involved in the production of
hashish. He invited me to have a look around the farms where he was
working, and I did not hesitate: in the following 3 months I visited
him several times, alone or with Arjan, and soon after the first trip
we both agreed this would be a great chance to document the production
of Moroccan hashish, and to retrieve original Moroccan genetics as
well. By June, we had prepared the logistics necessary to support 2
filming trips, to be realised in July and then in September. We
decided to double-up on the filming trips because of the sheer amount
of material to be covered, and because in Morocco the cannabis harvest
spans over an unusually large number of months, from June all the way
to October. This is due to the different cannabis genetics that are
cultivated in the Rif: some valleys produce original Moroccan
landraces, which are semi-autoflowering and are harvested in
June-July; other valleys produce genetics imported from Pakistan or
Afghanistan in the 1990s that are harvested later, in September or
October (these strains produce larger harvests, more resin, and
ultimately a higher quality and quantity of hashish).
During both filming trips we visited two very different valleys, to be
able to document different landscapes, genetics and philosophies of
production. First we approached the more organized, industrial-like
farmers, growing Pakistani and Afghani genetics mixed with local
landraces. Then we moved on to a more remokte area, where farmers are
still producing local landraces.
During the first filming trip, in July, we had the chance to see the
Pakistani and Afghani genetics in full growth, while the Moroccan
landrace was already being harvested. When we came back in September
we witnessed the finishing of flowering of the imported genetics, as
well as the manufacturing process of hashish production.
In Morocco plants are harvested, then stored to dry, slowly, for up to
1 month. Once dry, the plants are beaten on top of a set of fine
screens, using sticks, so that the resin glands detach and form a
brown-yellowish powder. This is called “pollen”, and once pressed into
bricks it becomes hashish, ready for transport and export.
Moroccan hashish available around the world is of many qualities, all
different mixtures of local land-race and imported genetics. When it
is made from local land-races the hashish is light brown or yellow in
color, with a dry, sandy texture; the flavor tends to be sweet and
flowery, very smooth; the effect is usually mild and body-like. When
Hashish is made from Pakistani or Afghani genetics it gains a dark
brown color, with red hues. The aroma and flavor are intense, sweet,
pungent; and the effect is usually strong, long-lasting, and very
stoned. Quality also determines market price, and during the last
years there has been a steady increase in the market price for
stronger, more aromatic hashish. Market factors like this one are
pushing Moroccan farmers to cultivate imported genetics, rather than
the local ones.
During our travels in Morocco, and particularly in the Rif region, we
witnessed how the farming cycle linked to hashish production is
integrant part of the rural lifestyle of the Berbers, and how it
dictates the rhythm of life and the rhythm of work. In the Rif
children are sent to school with money from the hashish trade, and
most of the population directly or indirectly benefits from it. In
Morocco hashish is not a drug in the hands of criminal cartels or
organized crime, it is an agricultural product that drives the local
economy at all levels. Maybe this is the reason why the Moroccan
government struggles between the demands of the international
community (to stop the hashish production and eradicate plantations)
and the demands of its own people (whose lives depend mostly on the
hashish trade). It is a very delicate political and social situation,
and there is no easy solution in sight. The most likely outcome is
that eradication programs, already in place and sponsored by
international money, will continue. At the same time it is clear that
the Moroccan government has no real intentions to stop the flow of
hashish towards Europe and the rest of the world.
After completing our documentary, we realised once more that cannabis
is a crop that helps the poorest people of the planet in their quest
to survive and to improve their quality of life.
We would like to thank our guides, and all the people of the Rif, for
the help they gave realising Strain Hunters Morocco. Without them, it
would have never happened.

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