Morocco is preparing to legalize cannabis.

Morocco’s capital, Rabat, produces approximately 70% of Europe’s cannabinoid products. It grows in the fertile Rif Mountains. The local strains of cannabis are known as Beldiya although it is gradually disappearing as locally developed, indigenous strains are being replaced by foreign hybrids that have higher yields and potency.

A strain called Critical has been widely cultivated in the Ketama population and clearly shows a strong trend towards more potent strains of cannabis.

Finally and after many years of debate and production, the Moroccan government has decided to seriously consider opening up the agriculture, research, exploitation and domestic sale of cannabis for medicinal and industrial use.

The main aim, government officials told Reuters, is to support impoverished farmers in the mountainous areas of the Rif amid a growing global legal market for cannabis. The law is expected to get cabinet approval as early as March. It aims to increase farmers’ incomes and protect them from the illicit drug market that controls the production and distribution of cannabis.

The most representative party elected in the last elections, the PJD, dropped its opposition to a regulated cannabis market after the UN removed the species from the list of most strictly controlled narcotics. Legalization of cannabis cultivation in Morocco has failed in previous attempts but this time, it appears to be the clearest opportunity for regulation with safeguards for growers.

Protests in the Rif area of northern Morocco, where cannabis is mainly grown, over economic inequality have had media repercussions on different occasions. According to Reuters, the bill envisages a nationwide agency to control and monitor production, transport and sales. Still, the recreational use of cannabis in Morocco will remain criminalized.

However, the PJD, the largest party in parliament, has yet to approve the bill.

Cannabis production in Morocco still remains technically illegal but has long been tolerated without regulation. According to the UN, the Rif area is a major cannabis production area despite a reduction in the cultivable area from 134,000 hectares in 2003 to 47,000 hectares six years ago.

Last December UN member states voted to remove cannabis from the category of the most strictly controlled and controlled drugs. That change was backed by, among others, Morocco.

Among the African countries, Morocco is among one of the countries supporting a shift to full medical legalization and free trade of cannabis. The future of cannabis in Africa looks promising as more and more countries join the initiative to regulate the cannabis market.

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