17 April 2003

UNODC and Morocco Announce Major Cannabis Survey in 2003

VIENNA, 16 April (UN Information Service) -- The Government of Morocco and the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime have signed a technical cooperation agreement in support of the Moroccan authorities' fight against organized cannabis cultivation, illicit trafficking and related organized crime.

The first joint action will be the conduct of a comprehensive cannabis survey in the summer of 2003 that will map the extent, locations and patterns of cannabis cultivation in Morocco, predominantly in the Northern Rif region. Based on the survey's results, the Government can implement and redirect action under the National Development Programme for the Northern Rif Region, so as to achieve lasting reductions of illicit cannabis cultivation. The Government has allocated a substantial amount of money to this National Development Programme, which is to ensure lasting and sustainable development for the Rif region, the poorest and most underdeveloped area in Morocco.

Other project activities include the provision of expertise, advisors and support to the Moroccan Government for the development of appropriate national legislation and action plans against international organized crime, including illicit drug trafficking, money laundering, and trafficking in human beings.

Morocco is one of the largest producers of cannabis in the world. Some 75% of the hashish (pressed cannabis resin) available on European markets is estimated to originate from Morocco. A network of international criminal groups operating throughout Europe and African countries is organizing the illicit trafficking of cannabis from Morocco to Europe. Trafficking routes involve other African countries south of the Sahara to a growing extent, so as to disguise the origin of illegal shipments.

In addition to cannabis-related organized crime, there is growing collaboration between Morocco-based groups with cocaine and heroin trafficking networks. Drug abuse and HIV-AIDS are increasing problems in Moroccan cities like Tangiers and Rabat.

The new project between Morocco and the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime is to pave the way for increased cooperation with European countries and the international community in Morocco's efforts against growing organized crime and drug-related problems.

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