On march the 11th of 2021, Morocco approved a bill authorizing the medical, cosmetic and industrial use of cannabis and kif. This can be seen as a starting point towards legalization. This bill is still pending to be approved by the Moroccan Parliament.
It is a long awaited step for the hundreds of thousands of cannabis farmers in Morocco. It regulates the production, manufacture, transport, marketing, export and import of cannabis for specific purposes. Applicants must be members of a cooperative that would act as an intermediary between growers and the manufacturing and exporting companies.
Morocco is the second largest producer of marijuana, right after the US. According to the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime, these are the 10 largest cannabis producers:
By 2003, 70% of hashish consumed in Europe was produced in Morocco. Cannabis has been cultivated in Morocco for centuries, although considered a forbidden substance since this country’s independence in 1956.
And why is Morocco among the world’s largest cannabis producers? Well, on one side, no other crops seem to grow in the mountainous Rif region. On the other hand, cannabis makes up a large share of the nation’s economy.
Western tourism has definitely contributed to both the capitalization of cannabis tours and Morocco’s reputation as a big cannabis producer.
So what is the Moroccan cannabis bill about? This bill sets an opening for the production, export and domestic sale of medical, cosmetic and industrial (textiles, paper) cannabis. However, recreational use of cannabis would still be illegal. This bill is also aimed to benefit impoverished Rif farmers’ lives by giving them access to the international market and protecting them from drug traffickers.
It also creates a governmental cannabis agency in order to safeguard the substance from illegal organized crime networks. This way, the government could ensure to purchase kif exclusively from the 100.000 farming families from the Northern Rif region, boosting the country’s economic growth.
But who grows cannabis in morocco? The farmers on the Rif do. And there are discrepancies amongst them on whether this bill will help them or not.
No other crops seem to grow on the Rif, and this represents a limitation on their economic growth.
The new bill could guarantee a steady income for those 100.000 farmer families on the Rif, but protests have arisen amongst them.
Saleh Lakhbech, a university student and son of a local farmer states that this bill was framed “in air conditioned rooms without consulting farmers” and believes there should be an investment made on alternatives to the current economy for the region. This gives some insight on the concerns of these farmers. The government might be out of touch from their reality.
Additionally, some farmers want to push for the legalization of recreational cannabis as well. This would allow them to keep selling hashish, a much more lucrative cannabis product that sustains this impoverished region. A tone of cannabis could fetch 700$ for industrial use in opposition to the 3.340$ worth of hashish it could produce. The United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime reported Morocco as the worlds’ biggest hashish producer in 2020.
On the other hand, other farmers would rather see cannabis cultivation only limited to their own region. No other crops seem to grow on the Rif, and this represents a limitation on their economic growth.
The Rif cannabis farmers have been pushing for an improvement in their illegal situation for the last 80 years, while the Ministry of the Interior affirms that legalization would help Morocco expand its market internationally.
After many delays, the co-ruling PJD party shifted its position against this bill following the United Nations’ removal of cannabis from the list of the world’s most dangerous drugs. The discussion has been on the table for some time, adding up to the efforts to combat cannabis dealers in national and international drug networks.
It is still unclear if this bill will de facto add up to these farmer’s income and living conditions.