RABAT – Morocco produces an estimated 70% of Europe’s cannabis products. Cannabis in Morocco grows in the rugged but fertile Rif Mountains. The local strain of cannabis is known as Beldiya, but it’s gradually disappearing from the fields of the African kingdom as traditional varieties are nowadays being smoked out by foreign hybrids offering higher yields and greater potency.
In Ketama, right in the heart of the Rif Mountains, a new potent strain called “Critical” has become widely grown, showing the changing trends towards higher potency genetics.
Finally treating their famous domestic crop of cannabis with the respect the plant is due, the Moroccan government plans to allow the opening up of farming, research, export and domestic sale of cannabis for medical and industrial use, the government said on Thursday.
Economics is the main driver. Government officials told Reuters the law is intended to help the impoverished farmers in the Rif mountains amid a growing legal global market for the drug. The new law, which is expected to gain cabinet approval next week, aims to improve farmers’ incomes, protect them from drug traffickers who now control the trade in cannabis, and enable access to the booming legal international market for the drug.
Morocco’s PJD party, the largest in parliament, dropped its opposition after the U.N. drug agency removed the plant from a list of the most tightly controlled narcotic drugs. Past attempts to legalize cannabis farming in Morocco have failed, but the way now seems clear.
Morocco’s northern Rif mountains where Cannabis is mostly grown, have seen large protests by the local people over economic inequality. The draft law, as reported by Reuters, envisages a national agency to monitor production, transportation and sales. The recreational use of cannabis in Morocco would still be banned.
Parliament, where the moderate Islamist PJD is the biggest party, must still approve the plan.
Growing cannabis is still technically illegal in Morocco, but it’s long been tolerated. The Kingdom is among the top global producers, according to the U.N. drug agency. Despite the fact that Morocco reduced the amount of land where cannabis is cultivated from 134,000 hectares in 2003 to 47,000 hectares six years ago, the Interior Ministry has said.
In December, the U.N. drug agency’s member states narrowly voted to remove cannabis from the most tightly controlled category of drugs, following the World Health Organization’s recommendation to make research into cannabis medical use easier. Morocco was among the countries backing the change.
Morocco is among a growing number of African countries that have begun the journey towards full medical legalization and export of cannabis. The future is promising for African cannabis as more and more African countries leverage the many economic opportunities available in cannabis.
EDITOR: This article has been updated. This is a developing story. Follow API, Reuters, HighlyCapitalized.com and local news. Morocco World News reports they are tracking the proposed law.