Hashish: A road with no promise

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Posted Thu, Apr 15, 2010

It was a period in his life which he feels will never evaporate in his thoughts, for the danger that went with it could have landed him a life in prison, while the rewards promised a shortcut to a future of extravagant wealth. To cultivate and market hashish, or kif, in Morocco was no easy task, and for three years *Herman would find ways to deal the drug behind the backs of brutal authorities, competing drug lords and corrupt officials who would prosper off of their own trade.

 Wearing a sophisticated white hemp shirt and brown corduroys, Herman sleeks back his graying hair, casually crosses his legs, swivels his feet and swigs a coffee before distinguishing a cigarette into an ashtray full of butts that appear like tombstones popping out of an eerie graveyard. Well rounded, sophisticated, relaxed and in his 50’s, he does not appear as the type who, in the past, lived a life filled with imminent danger.

 “I was a young renegade, a crazed lunatic, but found an opportunity that was easy and rewarding,” Herman says.

 However, when reflecting upon the risk, he says he prefers living a more tranquil and rewarding life as a Spanish teacher in a local high school, compared to a life once enveloped with uncertainty and possible death.   

My first encounter with Herman was at the Laughing Goat coffee shop in Boulder, Colo., when I noticed him skimming through a travel book of Morocco. I approached him asking if he has once traveled there, while expressing my curiosity to explore the wild, exotic and enchanting city of Marrakesh in southern Morocco.  

What began as a brief telling of his previous travels in Morocco, lead to a deep, emotional journey through a part of his life that involved working for a small scale hashish dealer in the city of Tamloughet, 80 miles north of Ketama, the capital of hashish cultivation in the country.

Sitting in his office, decorated with a panorama of African instruments, Moroccan kif pipes, Turkish knives and Samoan carved masks, Herman explains that traveling has always been a compulsive craving. His passport, fully decorated with colorful stamps from around the world, is as soft as a Gucci bag from being handled as each of the 20 pages are tainted with stamps from over 40 countries. However, his experience in Morocco, he explains, outweighs all other adventures throughout five continents he has dominated.

As he flips through each page in his passport, Herman lands across the Moroccan stamp that is intricately detailed with fig trees and dated June 1, 1979.

Fresh out of college and eager to explore, he would hitchhike over 500 kilometers throughout the country exploring exotic beaches, sultry cities and crumbling desert villages. It was not until he reached the north that he would be introduced to the largest hashish cultivating region in the world, the Reef Mountains.

“When I landed in the northern mountains in the desolate city of Tamloughet, I was taken in by a family of five for whom I would work for, cultivating and selling kif for the following three years,” Herman says. There was no sense of danger, the hospitality of the people was always welcoming, and the production of hashish was exaggerated, he explains.  

After settling down with a family, Herman was immediately given a job outline. It included cultivating the marijuana plant, from which the hashish was extracted, selling it to tourists, and “camouflaging” the hashish into different sources of transportation.

The process of extracting and smuggling the hashish, then, was primitive and simple. The first step was taking the flower tops of the Marijuana plant and sifting it through a fine metal mesh. The pollen that dropped through the mesh was collected before being lightly heated, compacted, and wrapped in cellophane. Now, ready to be smuggled the hashish was most often crammed into double lined backpacks, a non-functioning catalytic converter, tire-less truck tires and in body cavities.

“We would produce up to 30 kilos a month, 80 percent of which would end up in the streets of Spain, and spread north,” Herman says. Producing and selling this illicit substance provided an abundance of wealth. “Earning close to $4,000 a month in a country where 75 percent of its inhabitants made less than a dollar a day was outrages,” he says.

 The price of a kilo would range from $150 to $250 depending on the quality. Once smuggled into Europe, however, the price could reach up to $1,500.

“Though the penalty for a foreigner smuggling just one kilo of hashish was to be canned in public before tossed in the can for life, it was easy because everybody was in on it, even the king who created the laws in the first place,” Herman boasts. And so, since even the king smoked hashish, it was, and still remains tolerated amongst Moroccans, but strictly prohibited for foreigners. 

On numerous occasions Herman admits to selling several kilos of hashish to assistants, of the once King Hassan II.

“All is well in England,” were the only words written on a post card from a British tourist after smuggling 20 kilos back to England from Morocco. However, not all tourists who came to purchase the drug at a low cost to bring back to Europe were as fortunate.

 “In one occasion, an Italian tourist and friend was caught smuggling 12 kilos and jailed for life in a prison in Melilla, north of Morocco,” Herman says.

Tourists, who came to the Reef Mountains, came for one reason, to get a quick fix or to purchase large quantities to smuggle back home, says Herman. Hustling them was an easy task.

 “Having gained respect from the local authorities, who were also in on the trade, I would simply go to a coffee shop, light up a joint, and share with whoever seemed interested,” Herman says. “I would then inquire if they were interested in purchasing any.”

 Most of the tourist, or “patients”, as he puts it, were Dutch, German, French and English. 

However tourists were never to be trusted. On one occasion, which Herman subtly states as “hairy,” was an incident with an English tourist who when caught for smuggling kif into Spain, directed authorities to the secret location of Herman’s production.

“Though I was not there the time, it was the first time that I felt a sense of realization; an awakening to what I was doing and truly how deeply I was involved,” Herman says.

After three years of producing and hashish it was all over. The road that would eventually lead to a dead end with no promise was finally realized by Herman. With competition expanding from other hashish cultivators and smugglers, he felt that his name was spreading too fast amongst them; it was time to pull out.

“The thoughts of my Italian friend sitting in a crumbling and crowded cell block, with little hope of being released, immediately injected fear within in me,” Herman says. “The following week I landed in Spain, disconnecting from all my ties in Morocco.” 

What started as a summer trip for a Swiss college graduate, turned out to be a rollercoaster ride of a lifetime that Herman describes as a time of “exhilarating risk.”

 “Although I was involved in something illegal, dangerous, and stupid, I did manage to capture the heart of the Moroccan people, and forever will I have a strong connection to them,” he says.

Due to the illicit activity once carried out by the teller in this story, the name of the individual will be referred to as Herman.

One Response to “Hashish: A road with no promise”

  1. Landen Says:

    Super interesting. I enjoyed Herman’s in-depth story, and noticed only a couple minor grammatical errors.

    Reply

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