The government of Morocco announced on Thursday 25th February that it plans to allow the farming, export and domestic sale of cannabis for medicinal and industrial use.
Acceptance for cannabis production from the Moroccan public has been growing for some time, but previous attempts at cannabis law reform have so far failed, reported Reuters. The proposed new laws will be used to help develop the Rif mountains region, fight illicit trafficking and help poverty-stricken farmers by exploiting the ever-growing global demand for cannabis. The move is something that groups such as Maroc Cannabis 2016 have been calling for many years; Morocco World News reported in June 2016 that the movement Maroc Cannabis 2016 were calling on the north African country’s government to legalise cannabis production and make it a taxable industry by the end of that year.
The bill will include legislation to protect the farmers’ incomes and is expected to be approved next week. The co-ruling party, PJD, which is Morocco’s largest party in parliament, changed its stance on cannabis after the UN drug agency reclassified it as a “less-dangerous drug”.
Cannabis history in Morocco goes back a long way, although the date it arrived is debated, it is believed to be during the Arab Conquests somewhere between the seventh to fifteenth centuries. It was grown throughout the country for local use until the eighteenth century, after which the Rif mountains in the north became noted internationally as a centre of production, especially for hashish. However, rules were gradually tightened until 1956 when King Mohammed V banned cannabis nationwide.
Despite prohibition at home and in most of the world, Morocco remained one of the world’s leading producers and exporters of hashish. This was buoyed in the 1960s and 1970s by the newly established tourism trade to the region, which brought an influx of young western tourists eager to sample the culture and traditions that Morocco had to offer. During this time the majority of the hashish consumed in Europe was exported from a variety of countries including India (Kashmir region), Afghanistan and Lebanon. A plethora of armed conflicts greatly destabilised these areas and ensured that by the 1990’s Moroccan “soap bar” was the most widely consumed hashish in Europe.
Today there are estimated to be around 48,000 farmers who work in the cannabis industry in the Rif mountains alone, and it is these workers that the new bill is supposed to help the most once it is passed through parliament.