The Morrocan Government has announced that it has allowed farmers to begin the legal cultivation of cannabis at the start of this month, more than two years after the plans were first announced.
By distributing seeds manufactured in Switzerland to the northern provinces of Al Hoceima, Chefchaouen, and Taounate, government officials aim to drive business away from the legacy market by giving farmers and agricultural co-operatives to legal markets to sell their cannabis crops.
It has been illegal in Morroco to grow cannabis since 1976, although in many areas authorities have mainly turned a blind eye, or accepted bribes to allow farmers to grow cannabis, much of which is processed into hash. Moroccan hash is deemed by many to be the finest in the world.
The new bill, which allows the legal cultivation of cannabis for medicinal, industrial, and export purposes only, was passed by parliament in June 2021. The ruling party’s stance was apparently changed after the UN’s drug agency reclassified cannabis as a “less-dangerous drug”.
For many years campaigners have called for the Moroccan authorities to change the laws surrounding cannabis so farmers and producers would receive their fair share of the pie. Morocco has the largest legacy cannabis market by a long way, four or five times bigger than the next largest producer, Mexico. It was estimated that Morocco’s 2017 cannabis production totalled more than 36,000 tons, most of which was turned into hash for the European market.
According to reports from local media, there are 170 farmers involved in the first legal growing season, with crops of cannabis covering more than 105 hectares of land. Next year, officials predict the number of farmers growing cannabis legally to rise to 500.
However, not all farmers are convinced by the new move. Speaking to Le Monde, a cannabis farmer in his fifties called Farid who grows the plant near a small village in the northern provinces said, “What I fear is that the benefits will go to the state, laboratories, and multinationals and that we will be left behind. For the moment, we are in the dark. To whom and at what price will we sell? Which seeds? Will they be suitable? We have nothing but kif. We’re not going to risk losing everything.”
As with other countries that have permitted legal cannabis markets, analysts believe the legacy market won’t disappear overnight. Specialist drugs researcher Khalid Tinasti said, “The illicit market will remain very strong and only a handful of growers will enter the legal market. I don’t see how it could be otherwise, except to allow the recreational use of cannabis, which would enable the project to be truly inclusive.”