Welcome to the world wide web page of Tod H. Mikuriya, M.D.
In the 1960's Dr. Mikuriya traveled to the Rif Mountain area of Morocco to study the production and use of Kif--the Moroccan word for marijuana.
Cultivation in the Rif Mountains
Botany, Vol. 21, No. 3, July-September, 1967
is the Moroccan word for marihuana. It
is a general name that covers all preparations that are smoked. These
preparations are different from those encountered in North America in that
only the blossoms of the mature female plant are used. Another
difference is that the blossoms are always mixed with an equal amount of
tobacco. Its use is widespread
throughout the country among adult males as it has been for centuries.
The author (left) his guide and a friend.
the 20th and 23rd of August, 1966, I had the opportunity
to travel in the Rif Mountain area in the province of Alhueemas, Morocco. During
this period, I was able to observe the cultivation of kif (Cannabis stiva
L.), particularly near the towns of Ketama, Taksut, Taberrant, and Tleta
Ketama. The Director of the
National Co-operative of Artisans for the Province of Alhucemas facilitated
introductions and translations. He
is responsible for supervising the operations of handicraft manufacture for
this province. It was fortunate
that handicraft manufacture happens to take place in the kif-growing area
of Morocco, since I could also observe this traditional activity.
proper introductions by an individual with a position of some importance
locally, I found the people quite hospitable and friendly. During
my visit, I had a chance to share their various native dishes from the communal
bowls in the center of the traditional circle. The
people there were quite open about answering any of my many questions. At
the same time, they were fully aware of the “illegality” of the kif. Even
the children of the villages that I met knew that it is forbidden to take
kif into the lowlands. During
this visit, I talked with law enforcement officials, local farmers and with
Rif are a chain of mountains stretching across the northernmost area of Morocco. Except
in the highest elevations (7,000-8,000 ft), they are generally hot and dry. The
terrain of the Rif Mountains is quite rugged. The
slopes are steep and rocky, often dropping several thousand feet to narrow
canyons below. In the central
region of the mountains, there is a small flat plateau. The
village of Ketama is located at its western edge.
area surrounding this central plateau is strongly reminiscent of many areas
of the western United States, such as northern California or Colorado. There
are small, rather scanty stands of fir trees on the upper elevations. In
the lower areas, the vegetation is mostly shrubs and grasses. During
the short winter from November to March, there may be as much as 2 or 3 m
of snow at the higher elevations.
is grown in an area in the Rif Mountains, approximately 150 km northeast
of Tangier. The kif-growing
area itself is a triangle with the base an imaginary line drawn east to west
from a point approximately 10 km west of Tarquist, ending about 10 km east
of Bab Taza. The legs of the
triangle converge in the area of Taberrant to the south. The
area included in this triangle is approximately 1,000 sq. km.
is reputed to be the center of the growth area; and the town reputedly producing
the most kif in Asia, some 15 km to the southeast.
Roads are maintained with picks and shovels.
the main roads are generally well-surfaced macadam, the grading is poor due
to the use of hand tools for construction instead of earth moving equipment. These
roads are generally kept open all year. There
are just four or five towns actually located on the first class roads in
this area. Many of the towns
in the area are located on extremely poor dirt roads leading back in the
hills. These roads are so formidable that it is not possible to drive
any faster than 15 or 20 mph. At
several places, there were gangs of workmen attempting to improve and maintain
the road with pick and shovel. These
roads wind along the faces of steep cliffs. There
was evidence of frequent slides.
is little, if any, rural electrification. Most
of the towns had no electric or telephone lines leading to them. When
telephones and electricity were in evidence, they usually ran to the small
outposts of the national police. Outposts
seemed to be located in each small town along the main road but only sporadically
along the secondary roads.
of the valleys in this area where the kif is grown are inaccessible by motorized
vehicle. The crops are brought
to one of these secondary roads by donkey.
The villages that are off from the main road bear very little resemblance to villages along the main road and in the lowlands. They appear not to be villages as such but rather collections of houses spaced about 0.5 km of one another in these very steep canyon valleys. There are no interconnecting roads for vehicles but only winding donkey paths.
various Berber tribes populate this area. Many
of the people cannot speak any language except their native dialects. They
often times cannot speak Arabic. In
most towns, however, Arabic is spoken and occasionally French and Spanish
as secondary languages. For
this reason, perhaps, they are not easily assimilated into the cultures of
the “European” cities of the coast or the “Arabic” cities of the plains and
perhaps a thousand years they have rather successfully resisted outside influences
from a succession of invaders from the Phoenicians and the Romans to the
French and Spanish.
is a present some sympathy in this region for Abdul Krim, an old aspirant
Berbers seem to have a strong sense of ownership of private property knowing
exactly whose field is whose. The
various families through the generations have taken much effort to build
and maintain the neatly stone terraced fields that sit precariously on the
steep rocky slopes.
North Africa these people are referred to as “The Berber Problem” because
of their resistance to assimilation.
along the road and in these isolated ‘villages” I saw men carrying rifles
of ancient vintage on their backs. When
I asked about this I was told that it wasn’t really a rifle but it was “just
part of tradition”.
typical town off the main road is Taksut. Taksut
is located in one of the myriad steep, craggy canyons so characteristic of
the central Rif Mountains. The
barren, gray micaschist walls tower around the narrow steep floor of the
canyon. The local stone terraces
the fields in order to create level ground for the cultivation of crops. Small
flat roofed adobe-like houses are spaced several meters apart surrounded
by the family fields.
is not on the rather complete Michelin road map. It is located about 70 kilometers southwest of the town of
Targist off the main road. The
town is at the end of a spur of the road, which is of such a primitive quality
that only large trucks and four-wheeled vehicles may safely pass. At
the time of deep snowfall during the short winter, it is isolated from the
rest of the world. The “road” comes
to an abrupt rocky end on the outskirts of this town. There
are no streets but steep and crooked paths for donkeys, interconnecting the
various houses. The center of
the town is just across a footbridge and up through some large boulders. There
is just a small dirt flat space around which here is a small cluster of houses
and two tiny general stores. The
buildings are often built around the boulders or perched on top. There
is a small stream nearby. There
is no city hall, post office or other evidence of government services to
this town. There is neither
telephone nor electricity. There
is no evidence of a modern sewage system.
one goes from the center over the tortuous trails, one finds the outlaying
houses surrounded by the family plot of ground. The fields are still more rock than dirt, although much work
has gone into clearing rocks. The
terraces of these fields are making from the rocks cleared from the fields.
fields around Taksut are planted with about 50 percent kif and the rest corn,
wheat, legumes and truck garden crops such as tomatoes and melons. Besides
this agriculture, artisans working in the home support the town. Taksut
has no one specialty in handicraft but rather an output of several individuals
who specialize in different items. Typical
items are leather hassocks, leather purses and handbags, rugs, pseudo-antique
firearms, and hand tied rugs.
population of this little town-valley was estimated by some of its residents
to be between three and five hundred. Several
interrelated families have owned the farms for generations.
health services are provided.
villages appear to be comprised of families or clans that own property. The
property demarcations are quite distinct, with everybody being quite aware
of the ownership of the various fields.
Kif cultivation in the Rif.
economy of this area is almost solely supported by the cultivation of kif. In
the central areas of growth it is the only crop. The
individuals involved in kif production in the central region of the kif-growing
area must purchase staple goods rather than grow them themselves. On
the peripheral areas, however, more of the other crops are I evidence. These
are apparently both for local consumption and limited cash crops.
people in the village of Taksut said that about 50 percent of the crops planted
in their valley was kif with the other 50 percent other crops. In
Tabrant there appeared to be even less growth of kif and more growth of other
crops. Less handicraft work,
however, was in evidence.
no accurate estimate can be make of the total area and the yield, the area
planted in kif would be in the thousands of square kilometers with an output
in the range of thousands of kilograms of marketable product.
The corn and wheat crops are quite poor in quality with yields of perhaps less than one bushel per acre.
Local farmers estimated the yield as
the yield of kif, the average is estimated by the local farmers as being
two kilograms per square meter of marketable product (dried tops and stems,
the leaves are not included). The
farmers receive five Dirham (1 Dirham = 20 cents) per kilogram of this product
from individuals who come up from the lowlands with trucks to take the product
for distribution to the cities. The
selling price in the cities jumps up to upwards from 15 to 50 Dirhams per
kilogram. Further refined products
bring even more, sometimes in the area of 200 Dirhams per kilo. The
refining consists of separating the blossoms from the stems and the seeds
for smoking. The blossoms are
then mixed with an equal amount of a high grade of local tobacco, which is
grown primarily in other sections. I
did not see any cultivation of this tobacco in evidence in the area visited.
is planted in this high mountainous region early in March, shortly after
the spring snows have thawed. It
is harvested during the month of August and early September.
Government attempts to practice a policy of containment, allowing no new
areas of kif cultivation while allowing those already in production to be
maintained. The control of this
area by the Government is somewhat functional since in Taberrant, a comparatively
inaccessible town, the national gendarmerie had destroyed several acres of
kif growing there within the past month.
The soil in Ketama is quite rocky.
the main road at least a t babtaza, Bab Berred, Ketama and targist, there
are barricades and national gendarmarie outposts. When
I inquired as to what these were for I was told that at night all trucks
that pass through this area are searched.
informal conversations with the Chief of the national gendarmerie for the
Alhucemas Province I learned that they are really not concerned with individuals
taking one or two kilos of the product out of the area either national or
tourists, but are more concerned with national taking the kif out for purpose
am told that most of the Moroccans who pass through the area have their luggage
inspected at various bus stops. In
my travels, however, I saw no evidence of this occurring when a bus happened
to be stopped. There are outposts
of the national gendarmerie at all of the towns on the main road and in many
of the towns I the hills. They
have telephones and, in some instances, short wave radios for communications.
one of the dirt roads I saw a weighing station where some farmers had brought
the dried kif in for pickup for shipment to the cities of the lowland. I
was not, unfortunately, able to find out more data concerning the transport
arrangements from this growing area to the cities. This
regulation of kif is apparently a very complicated matter handled by the
Moroccan Government in easy that I could not comprehend. It
is apparently must be some way of obtaining Government “approval” for transport
to enable these vehicles to take the crop out of the area.
cultivation of kif in Morocco has been present for hundreds of years. The
total consumption of kif in Morocco is measured in the thousands of kilograms
is a situation of chronic unemployment in Morocco. The migration of Berbers who have no industrial skills and
who are not assimilated into either Arabic or European culture further complicate
matters. In 1965 Casablanca
experienced riots that necessitated seven days of martial law. These riots toke place primarily in a slum area on the edge
of the city populated primarily by “displaced” Berbers.
years ago there was an attempt to burn the kif fields in the Rif mountains
but this government effort was met with armed opposition. The government ceased its endeavor when it became apparent
that this would be a long and costly struggle.
of the rugged terrain and the poor communications, effective resistance to
a government campaign would be quite easy.
from the people in the cities who traffic in the huge quantities of kif would
no be insignificant.
deprivation of these people in the growing area of their chief, and oft times,
sole cash crop would drive them from their marginal rocky land to further
inflame the unemployment problems in the city.
above observations and inferences illustrate the complexity of the problem
of kif cultivation in Morocco. Firstly,
there is the barren, marginal soil on which little else can be grown. Secondly,
there are the rugged terrain, poor roads, and poor communication. Thirdly,
the tradition of this unassimilated group of people is one of resisting outside
influence. When these factors
are combined with the large vested interests in transport and distribution
as well as chronic unemployment situation, it is doubtful that any significant
reductions of kif cultivation can be effected. It
appears that this situation of stalemate between the central government and
the Berbers of the Rif will continue for the foreseeable future.
to say, investigation of possibilities of the introduction of substitute
cash crops is essential for eventual solution of the problem, (no agricultural
test stations were seen in the kif growing area). At
this writing effective measures seem many years away.