By Paul Schemm and Smail Bellaoualli, Associated Press
Kettama, Morocco – In the rugged Rif mountains, Abdelkhalek Benabdallah strode among towering marijuana plants, checking the buds for the telltale spots of white that indicate they are ready for harvest.
Much of the crop had been picked and left to dry on the roofs of stone-and-wood huts that dot the valley, the heart Morocco’s pot-growing region. Benabdallah says he openly grows the crop, while understanding the risk: “We are regularly subject to blackmail by the gendarmes,” he said as he scythed through stalks and wrapped them into a bundle.
Morocco’s marijuana farmers live in a strange limbo in which the brilliant green fields are left alone, while the growers themselves face constant police harassment. A new draft law may bring some reprieve: It aims to legalize marijuana growing for medical and industrial uses, a radical idea for a Muslim nation. It could alleviate poverty and social unrest, but the proposal faces stiff opposition in this conservative country, as well as the suspicions of farmers themselves, who think politicians can do nothing help them.