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Cablegate: Morocco 2009 International Narcotics


DE RUEHRB #0886/01 3030958
P 300958Z OCT 09




E.O. 12958: N/A

REF: STATE 100989

1. Summary: The Government of Morocco (GOM) has
achieved significant reductions in its cannabis and
cannabis resin production in recent years. Advances
in Morocco's counternarcotics efforts are a result
of the GOM's comprehensive counternarcotics
strategy, which emphasizes combining conventional
law enforcement, crop eradication, and demand
reduction efforts with economic development to erode
the "cannabis-growing culture" that exists in
northern Morocco. The vast majority of cannabis
produced in Morocco is consumed in Europe and has
little, if any, impact on the U.S. market for
illegal drugs. Morocco is a party to the 1988 UN
Drug Convention. End Summary.

Status of Country

2. Morocco is one of the world's largest cannabis
resin (hashish) producers, but its importance as a
main source country for cannabis resin is declining.
The 2009 United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime
(UNODC) World Drug Report states that although
Morocco remains one of the world's largest producers
of cannabis, fewer countries around the world are
citing Morocco as the "source" country or "origin"
of the cannabis resin found in their markets. The
percentage of countries citing Morocco as the origin
of hashish found in their markets has dropped from
31 percent in 2003 to 21 percent in 2009. This
statistic appears to indicate some success of the
GOM's counter-drug efforts as well as increased
cannabis resin production in Afghanistan.

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3. Cannabis remains primarily an export for
Moroccan growers, with the vast majority of the
product typically processed into cannabis resin or
oil and exported predominately to Europe. Only very
small amounts of cannabis and narcotics being
produced in or transiting through Morocco reach the
United States. Cannabis cultivation has historically
centered in the northern tip of the country, between
the Rif Mountains and the Mediterranean Sea, and at
one time large segments of the population of that
area participated in the cultivation. The GOM has
had some success reducing the area used for cannabis
cultivation and encouraging the cultivation of
alternative crops. Fewer than 100,000 Moroccans are
currently involved in cannabis cultivation,
according to the GOM.

4. The center of cannabis production in Morocco
appears to have shifted from Chefchaouen to al-
Hoceima due to GOM eradication efforts. Most
cannabis cultivation occurs in al-Hoceima, with the
adjoining province of Chefchaouen largely making up
the rest of production. The provinces of Larache,
Taounate, and Tetouan, which were formerly major
production centers, have become less important areas
for cannabis cultivation as a direct result of GOM
eradication efforts.

5. Morocco is also combating the growth in
trafficking and consumption of "harder drugs,"
particularly cocaine. According to the GOM, South
American drug smugglers continue to transport
cocaine through Morocco and onward to Europe.

6. Heroin and psychotropic drugs (methamphetamine,
Ecstasy, etc.) are also making inroads into the
country but to a lesser extent than cocaine. Morocco
has only a relatively modest licit requirement for
dual-use meth or Ecstasy precursor chemicals (1025
kg of pseudoephedrine), and the country neither
serves as a known source nor transit point for
diverted meth precursors.

Country Actions against Drugs in 2009

7. Policy Initiatives. Morocco's national strategy
to combat drugs rests on the three pillars of: (1)
interdiction, (2) eradication, and (3) demand
reduction. Morocco's strongest actions have been in

the areas of interdiction and eradication. GOM
officials seek to build upon their already strong
existing relationships with international
organizations such as the UNODC, the U.S. Drug
Enforcement Administration (DEA), the International
Narcotics Control Board (INCB), and INTERPOL. This
cooperation has been strong on the law enforcement
side but less robust in terms of demand reduction
efforts, as GOM officials still consider demand to
be mainly a European problem.

8. Morocco's national drug strategy is augmented by
an emphasis on a broader economic development
approach and crop substitution. Moroccan officials
have reported the successful substitution of olives,
figs and carob for cannabis since the launch of
their 2004 drug-eradication campaign, and saffron
may offer another alternative.

9. Moroccan authorities reported that they hope to
complete another detailed drug study in cooperation
with UNODC as well as update their national drug
strategy in 2010. The Moroccan Ministry of Interior
(MOI) has the goal to reduce cannabis cultivation to
12,000 ha by 2012. If this goal is accomplished, it
will mean that Morocco will have reduced cannabis
cultivation by 91% since it first started serious
eradication efforts in 2003, according to the GOM.

10. Law Enforcement Efforts. The following table
is a summary of Morocco's drug seizure efforts since
2004. The decrease in cannabis and hashish seizures
between 2007 and 2008 may partly be the result of
successful GOM eradication efforts and droughts
reducing the supply cannabis and hashish on the
local market.

Year Cannabis Hashish Cocaine Heroin

2004 318 MT 86 MT 4 kg 1,001 168,257
grams units

2005 116 MT 96 MT 8 kg 5,335 94,900
grams units

2006 60 MT 89 MT 57 kg 714 55,881
grams units

2007 209 MT 118 MT 248 kg 1,906 55,243
grams units

2008 222 MT 114 MT 34 kg 6,325 48,293
grams units

2009 185 MT 174 MT 19 kg 2,754 34,669
(January grams units
to October)

11. The GOM has deployed 11,000 personnel
throughout the northern and south western coastal
areas to interdict drug shipments, maintain
counternarcotics checkpoints, and staff observation
posts along the coast. The Moroccan Navy carries out
routine sea patrols. GOM forces are now using
helicopters, planes, speed boats, mobile x-ray
scanners, ultrasound equipment, and satellites in
their drug fight. The mobile x-ray scanner has
proven to be particularly effective. In April,
customs and police officials seized and destroyed a
record 34 MT of cannabis at the port in Casablanca.
In June, the GOM seized 20 MT of cannabis resin
during an inspection at the port of Nador, the
largest load ever seized there.

12. According to the GOM, Moroccan law enforcement
arrested 27,226 individuals in connection with drug
related offenses in 2009, of whom 471 were
foreigners arrested for international drug
trafficking. Arrests of traffickers at the seaports
and of arriving cocaine "mules" from Sub-Saharan
Africa at the Casablanca airport are frequently in
the news. Detection training and the use of
ultrasound equipment were critical to the success of
these seizures. As authorities become more vigilant,
GOM officials opine that cocaine smugglers are
likely to seek access to Europe through much harder

to detect land routes and other methods.

13. Moroccan law provides a maximum allowable
prison sentence for drug offenses of 30 years, as
well as fines for illegal drug violations ranging
from $20,000-$80,000. Ten to 15 years' imprisonment
remains the typical sentence for major drug
traffickers convicted in Morocco.

14. Corruption. As a matter of government policy,
the GOM does not encourage or facilitate illicit
production or distribution of narcotic or
psychotropic drugs or other controlled substances,
or the laundering of proceeds from illegal drug
transactions. These actions are illegal and the
government tries to enforce these laws to the best
of its ability. Despite GOM actions to combat the
illicit drug trafficking industry, narcotics-related
corruption among governmental, judicial, military
and law enforcement officials appears to continue.
In January, authorities dismantled a large
international drug trafficking ring involving some
Moroccan government officials. The 112 defendants,
including 35 civilians, 30 members of the Royal
Navy, 19 members of the Royal Gendarmerie, 27
members of the Auxiliary Forces, and one member of
the Royal Armed Forces, have been charged with
alleged involvement in forming a criminal gang,
international drug trafficking, and corruption.

15. In July, Spanish authorities extradited
notorious drug baron Mohamed Taieb Ahmed (AKA "El
Nene") to Morocco following his escape from from a
prison in Kenitra with the assistance of local
prison guards. In August, Moroccan courts sentenced
El Nene to an additional five year prison term on
charges of corruption and escaping prison.

16. In late 2008, the government formed the Central
Commission for the Prevention of Corruption (ICPC).
In July 2009, the ICPC released its first report,
stating that it had received 21 valid corruption
complaints. At year's end, investigations were
ongoing. Officials attributed the low number of
complaints, in part, to the lack of legislation
protecting plaintiffs and witnesses in corruption
cases. The Commission is working with the MOJ to
develop procedures for processing corruption
complaints. In addition to the commission, the MOJ
and the Government Accountability Court (Cour de
Comptes) also had jurisdiction over corruption

17. Agreements and Treaties. Morocco is a party to
the 1988 UN Drug Convention, the 1971 UN Convention
on Psychotropic Substances and the 1961 UN Single
Convention as amended by the 1972 Protocol. Morocco
is also a party to the UN Convention against
Transnational Organized Crime, but has not signed
any of its protocols. Morocco and the United States
cooperate in law enforcement matters under a Mutual
Legal Assistance Treaty (MLAT). Morocco is a party
to the UN Convention against Corruption. Morocco has
several cooperative agreements to fight against
drugs with European countries such as Spain, France,
Portugal, and Italy, and it seeks to work closely
with other Arab and African countries.

18. Cultivation/Production/Eradication. Morocco
succeeded in decreasing the land dedicated to
cannabis cultivation by 62% from 134,000 hectares in
2003 to 52,000 hectares in 2009, due in part to an
aggressive eradication campaign, carried out mainly
by Gendarmes and local authorities, police and
customs officials, according to the GOM. Cannabis
resin production dropped 75% from 3,070 MT to 760 MT
between 2003 and 2009. Morocco used the following
methods to eradicate illicit crops: (1) crop-dusting
via airplane, (2) mechanical and manual destruction
of crops and (3) burning.

19. GOM officials report that during the 2009
eradication campaign, they were able to eradicate a
total of 8,338 ha of cannabis in the northern
provinces. This includes 2,032 ha in Taounate, 6,066
ha in Chefchaouen, 5 ha in Tetouan, 3 ha in al
Hoceima and 232 ha in Larache.

20. Since 2004, Morocco has conducted an awareness
campaign for cannabis growers, alerting them to the
environmental dangers of cannabis cultivation,
including soil exhaustion, excessive fertilizer
concentrations, and deforestation, and informing
them of alternatives to use the land more
productively. The GOM selected the northern province
of Taounate in 2006 as the site for the construction
of the National Institute of Medicinal and Aromatic
Plants to study the viability of various crop
substitutions. Saffron cultivation and rose petal
extraction are two examples of possible future
economic substitutes for cannabis cultivation in the
region. Olives, figs and carob have also been
successfully substituted for cannabis. GOM officials
report that since the 2004 awareness campaign
started, there has been a 62% decrease in cannabis
production in the northern areas of the country.

21. Drug Flow/Transit. Given its proximity to
Morocco, Spain is a key transfer point for Europe-
bound Moroccan cannabis resin. From Spain, it can
normally be transshipped to most other Western
European destinations. France, Belgium, the
Netherlands and Italy are also major European
destinations for cannabis trafficked from Morocco.
Notwithstanding the changes reported above in
cultivation and production, there is no confirmation
of a significant diminution of cannabis products
reaching these major European markets, according to
the 2009 UNODC World Drug Report.

22. Most large shipments of illicit cannabis bound
for Spain travel via speedboats, which can make the
roundtrip to Spain in one hour or less, although
fishing boats, yachts, and other vessels are also
used. Smugglers also continue to transport cannabis
via truck and car through the Spanish enclaves of
Ceuta and Melilla, known to have lower inspection
standards than the rest of the European Union, and
the Moroccan port of Tangier, crossing the Strait of
Gibraltar by ferry. According to the GOM, heroin
enters Morocco from the Spanish enclaves of Ceuta
and Melilla and is therefore generally limited to
the provinces of Tangier and Tetouan. At the end of
2008, Morocco and Spain formed a joint commission to
fight drug trafficking and illegal migration.
Spain's deployment of a network of fixed and modular
radar, infrared, and video sensors around the Strait
of Gibraltar, starting in 1999 and known as the
Integrated System of External Vigilance (SIVE), has
forced Moroccan smugglers to take longer and more
vulnerable routes.

23. Although the main African redistribution
centers for cocaine from Latin America remain Sub-
Saharan, Morocco has been used as a transit country.
According to the GOM, most of the seizures of
cocaine have taken place in airports. The reduction
in seizures of cocaine since 2007 may indicate the
success of the GOM's drug eradication strategy,
including increased use of x-ray scanners in

24. The number of trans-national drug trafficking
networks in Morocco is declining, according to the
GOM. However, networks with French, Spanish, Dutch
and Belgian ties are more prevalent. In September,
authorities announced the dismantling of two drug
trafficking networks. One consisted of 11
individuals specializing in robberies, assault and
drug trafficking. The second ring consisted of an
unreported number of individuals involved in
distributing cocaine at the national level.

Domestic Programs/Demand Reduction

25. The GOM is concerned about anecdotal evidence
suggesting an increase in domestic cocaine and
heroin use, but does not currently have an effective
system in place to measure and evaluate the
situation. In 2009, the GOM established a drug
treatment facility in Casablanca to provide
specialized treatments to patients suffering from
addiction. Morocco has also established a program to
train the staffs of psychiatric hospitals in the

treatment of drug addiction. In order to discourage
the use and sale of drugs, the Ministry of Health
launched an anti-drug awareness campaign targeting
school children and created drug-free school zones,
patrolled by police and the Auxiliary Forces. In
partnership with UNODC, the Ministry of Health is
exploring the relationship between drug use and
HIV/AIDS infection in Morocco. Moroccan civil
society and some schools are active in promoting
counternarcotics campaigns.

U.S. Policy Initiatives and Programs

26. Bilateral Cooperation. The USG is working to
enhance Morocco's counternarcotics capability
through training in law enforcement techniques, and
to promote the GOM's adherence to its obligations
under relevant bilateral and international narcotics
control agreements. U.S.-supported efforts to
strengthen anti-money laundering laws and efforts
against terrorist financing may also contribute to
the GOM's ability to monitor the flow of money from
the cannabis trade.

27. The U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA),
which covers Morocco from its Paris office,
continued its bilateral exchange of information with
the Moroccans in support of several ongoing drug
investigations in 2009.

28. During FY 2009, the U.S. Government provided
training to Moroccan police, gendarmes, and customs
officials in the areas of (1) border interdiction
training (2) cargo control (3) and fraudulent
document detection.

29. The Road Ahead. We assess that the endemic
nature of the cannabis culture in Morocco will
continue to be gradually ameliorated through
incremental application of Morocco's comprehensive
counternarcotics strategy. The U.S. will continue to
monitor the illegal drug situation in Morocco,
cooperate with the GOM in its counternarcotics
efforts, and, provide law enforcement training,
intelligence and other support.


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