The Moroccan government has said it intends to allow hashish to be grown, exported and sold locally for medicinal and industrial uses, a move it hopes will help poor farmers in the Rif Mountains.
Previous attempts to legalize hashish cultivation in Morocco have failed, but the ruling Justice and Development Party, which is the largest in parliament, dropped its opposition after the United Nations drug agency removed from its list the majority of drugs under heavy control.
The bill, which the government is expected to approve next week, aims to improve farmers’ incomes, protect them from drug traffickers who now control the cannabis trade, and gain access to the thriving international legal market for drugs.
Hemp is mostly grown in the northern Rif Mountains, which in recent years has seen protests over economic inequality.
The bill envisages the creation of a national agency to monitor production, transportation and sales, while recreational use of cannabis in Morocco is still prohibited.
Although cannabis cultivation is currently illegal in Morocco, it has long been tolerated, and the North African kingdom is among the world’s largest producers, according to the United Nations drug agency.
The Moroccan Interior Ministry said Morocco had reduced the area of land planted with cannabis from 134,000 hectares in 2003 to 47,000 hectares six years ago.
And last December, member states of the United Nations Medicines Agency voted by a narrow margin to remove cannabis from the most tightly controlled class of drugs, after the World Health Organization recommended to make research into its medical use easier.