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Morocco Issues First Cannabis Production Permits

The northern African nation of Morocco formally launched its legal cannabis industry this week with the issuance of the country’s first 10 permits to produce cannabis. Moroccan authorities legalized cannabis production for industrial and medicinal purposes. They also gave their limited approval to an already successful industry for over 100 years.

Under the law, farmers in Morocco’s northern mountainous areas who organize into collectives will gradually be permitted to cultivate cannabis to fill the needs of the legal market. Abdeluafi Laftit, the Interior Minister of the Alaouite kingdom, Morocco’s reigning monarchy, said the legalization of cannabis is part of the government’s plan to create new “development opportunities,” according to a report from regional media.

The first 10 cannabis production and cultivation permits were issued by the National Agency for the Regulation of Cannabis Activities, the new agency created to oversee the legalization of the industry. The authority also gave permission to authorized businesses to sell and export cannabis, as well as cannabis derivatives, for industrial, pharmaceutical and medical purposes. According to a statement issued by ANRAC, the move is part of the implementation of last year’s Law 13-21 on the legal uses of cannabis.

The plan will allow farmers to grow and process cannabis using a network closely regulated collectives. In the three provinces Al Hoceima and Chefchaouen, the authorizations will be granted at the provincial level. They will then be distributed in gradual order according to the demands of the legal cannabis market. ANRAC noted that it is still studying the prospects of the legal cannabis market in order to foster growth throughout the sector and make the transition to the regulated market easier for farmers who have been producing hashish for Europe’s illicit market for generations.

Morocco’s Traditional Farmers Will See The Benefits

But farmers in Morocco’s Rif Mountains, where large-scale production of hashish has occurred since at least the 18th century, fear the government’s crackdown on unlicensed production and the slow pace of issuing permits will result in missed opportunities. Historically, the region has supplied about 70% of the hashish in Europe’s illicit market. Legalization initiatives and domestic production on Europe’s continent will likely reduce this market.

Souad, a cannabis farmer in the village of Azila, said that Morocco’s cannabis farmers are uncertain about their future and believe that the government’s plan to legalize cannabis has not yet delivered any benefits.

“We’re still attached to this plant, but it has stopped giving us anything,” Souad told WION news.

“Nobody wants it anymore,” she added. “Our lives are hard now.”

Souad, who is now in her 60s and still grows cannabis alongside her children, continues to cultivate marijuana. Although she hopes legalization will bring wealth to her family, and help the Rif Mountains area that is still marginalized, it’s not clear if the odds of success.

“If it’s serious, it’s a good thing,” said Souad.

With the success of cannabis reform in Europe, there has been a significant drop in demand for Moroccan hashish. According to an interior ministry report, the income from marijuana for Moroccan farmers fell to 500 million euros per year (about $490 millions) during the first half of the 21st Century to below 325 million euros in 2020. This is according to a study by the 2021 interior ministry.

“The market has fallen drastically,” said Karim, another grower in Azila.

Karim was also confronted with additional difficulties due to the severe drought in the area. Because of the water shortages, he was only able to farm a portion of his family’s land this year. Farmers are also seeing increased efforts by the government to stem illicit production as they begin to regulate Morocco’s cannabis market.

“Farmers are the weak link in the supply chain—we’re the ones who pay the price,” Karim complained.

“The only option we have left is prison,” he added.