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  HOME | World (Click here for more)

Morocco to Join Global Trend in Legalizing 'Certain Uses' of Weed

By Javier Otazu

RABAT -- Morocco, the world's leading producer of cannabis (known locally as kif), is preparing to legalize certain "medical and industrial" uses of the plant, according to a bill presented on Thursday to the Council of Government, which is expected to be approved next week.

After several decades of total prohibition, which theoretically renders about 100,000 families that live from the cultivation of kif criminals, especially in the Rif mountains in the north, Morocco becomes the latest country to join a worldwide trend of controlled decriminalization, although "recreational uses" will remain illegal.

In fact, the preamble of the bill to which Efe had access cites the 40 countries - including several African countries - that have decriminalized some uses of cannabis, and underlines the latest ruling by the World Health Organization in December in Vienna, when it recognized the therapeutic properties of the plant and removed it from its Schedule IV, where the most dangerous substances are listed.

The law also cites the economic argument, with a market growth potential for so-called "medical cannabis" of 30% per year, which would reach up to 60% in Europe, potentially Morocco’s main market.

Under the draft law, cannabis farmers who want to become legal will have to form cooperatives, which in turn will sell their wares to a national agency that will have a monopoly on the processing and marketing of the final product.

But a host of issues surrounding the proposed legislation have been left unresolved, namely which areas will be given amnesty, how many farmers will be allowed to transition to a legally approved occupation, and how will the product be sold and distributed.

The lucrative industry has been unregulated for decades, making official estimates of how much land is dedicated to the crop and how many people work in the sector unreliable.

Local NGOs have said that local farmers, councils and civil society in the Riffian mountains were left out of the discussions for the law, leading to concerns in the area about what the new regulations will mean for the crop that is their only means of survival.

"Here (in the Rif) most of the people live off cannabis, there is almost no agriculture or livestock, and even less industry. For the local farmer, growing kif is like growing potatoes," says Mohamed Andaloussi, who runs environmental NGO Azir.

To make it out of criminality and enter into a regulated market, with no room for drug trafficking mafias, represents a long road ahead.
 

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