Morocco could soon be richer in a legal cannabis export. A bill to legalize the cultivation of cannabis for medical purposes is currently debated in parliament. If the law clears the final hurdles in the coming weeks, the kingdom could become the second country in the region to legalize cannabis in this context. Lebanon made the first move in 2020.
According to several international institutions, including the UN and the European Monitoring Center for Drugs and Drug Addiction, Morocco is one of the world’s largest producers of cannabis, as well as the largest supplier of illicit cannabis products such as hashish. Much of these products enter the EU through various smuggling routes.
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The Moroccan cannabis bill is highly controversial
In the run-up to parliamentary, regional, and local elections in September, it is recognizably dividing public opinion. It is therefore difficult to say whether the bill will pass, says Khalid Mouna, professor of anthropology at Moulay Ismail University in Meknes.
The draft law proposes a national agency for cannabis and farmers’ cooperatives to regulate cultivation. If cannabis were legalized, it would be “the ideal condition for Morocco to attract large-scale investment in the infrastructure it needs to serve the lucrative market,” according to a 2019 report by cannabis market research firm New Frontier Data. Moroccan farmers would then also have the opportunity to enter the trade in other cannabis-related product
The idea of cannabis legalization has been discussed before, he said. Most of the time, however, it’s just been a tactic to win support from voters in cannabis-growing regions that are often economically disadvantaged, he said.
This time, however, it could be different, says Tom Blickman, who researches international drug policy at the Transnational Institute in Amsterdam. “It’s obviously a seriously driven initiative. Because it comes from the government. And behind the government is the royal palace.” So far, he said, proposals to that effect have been put forward by the opposition.
UN decision as legal basis
The current campaign for legalization began in early December 2020 during a meeting of the UN Commission on Narcotic Drugs in Austria. The World Health Organization had recommended removing cannabis from the list of dangerous drugs, thus allowing its medical use. The UN Commission adopted the WHO recommendation by a narrow majority.
For Moroccan Interior Minister Abdelouafi Laftit, this provided the legal basis to introduce the cannabis legalization bill to parliament in April. In the meantime, the government has approved the draft law. But now MPs still need to ratify it.
Most of the country’s cannabis comes from the economically depressed Rif region in the north. While cultivation is tolerated, farmers often live in poverty and fear in an environment of crime.
Prelude to a campaign: in early December 2020, the World Health Organization had recommended removing cannabis from the list of dangerous drugs, allowing its medical use. The UN commission adopted the WHO recommendation by a narrow majority. For Moroccan Interior Minister Abdelouafi Laftit, this provided the legal basis to introduce the cannabis legalization bill to parliament in April. In the meantime, the government has approved the draft law. Now, however, MPs must ratify it.
The bill proposes a national agency for cannabis and farmer cooperatives to regulate cultivation. If cannabis were legalized, it would be “the ideal condition for Morocco to attract large-scale investment in the infrastructure it needs to serve the lucrative market,” according to a 2019 report by cannabis market research firm New Frontier Data. Moroccan farmers would then also have the opportunity to enter the trade in other cannabis-related products, New Frontier Data said.
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First published in Qantara.de, a third-party contributor translated and adapted the article from the original. In case of discrepancy, the original will prevail.
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