By Steve Elliott
A new law being considered in Morocco that would legalize marijuana cultivation for medical and industrial uses, finally bringing the North African Islamic nation's thriving hashish industry into the open.
The proposal, however, faces stiff opposition in this conservative nation, despite a centuries-old tradition of growing cannabis in the north, where the Rif Mountains have long been a center of hash production, reports Paul Schemm of the Associated Press.
Some farmers like Abdelkhalek Benabdallah openly grow marijuana, despite its illegal status. "We are regularly subject to blackmail by the gendarmes," he said as he prepared his September harvest.
The new law could alleviate widespread poverty and unrest; suspicious farmers, accustomed to an adversarial relationship with government authorities, don't believe the government will do anything to help them. The farmers fear that legalization might lower the already cheap price of $8 a kilogram they receive for their product.
"If legalization happened for all of Morocco, we could never compete with the other farmers that have lots of land and the price of cannabis wouldn't be any different from that of carrots," said Mohammed Benabdallah, an activist in the village of Oued Abdel Ghaya.