Marakesh Express: Morocco Announces Official Start of First Legal Growing Season and Secures African Representation on UN Drugs Body
Ghaya Ben Mbarek, Tunisa
2 May 2023 at 12:00:00
Authorities in Morocco announced on Sunday, 30 April 2023, the official start of its first legal cannabis growing season. The Royal Household has also confirmed that it will continue to represent Africa on the UN Commission of Narcotic Drugs.
The first legal cannabis crop is to be planted in Morocco two years after the country’s parliament passed a law to regulate an already widespread activity.
The first batch of cannabis seeds, imported from Switzerland, was delivered to farmers and agricultural co-operatives in the northern provinces of Al Hoceima, Chefchaouen and Taounate.
Those who received the seeds had to sign receipts to keep track of the distributed quantities.
Last October, a Moroccan state agency began the process of issuing cannabis cultivation permits a year after the law was passed by parliament.
Cannabis, more commonly known as “keef” in Morocco, is already widely grown in the country illegally.
Authorities say that the new legal framework aims to improve farmers’ incomes and deter drug traffickers who smuggle cannabis to Europe.
However, the law that was issued by the Moroccan parliament in May 2021 only allows its cultivation for industrial, medical or export purposes and does not permit its recreational use.
Local media have reported the cannabis seeds distributed for the 2023 season will cover 105 hectares of land, with more than 170 farmers involved in the process.
The government says that the number of farmers benefitting from these permits will rise to 500 in the next agricultural season. Farmers must be official members of the state’s agricultural co-operatives.
The process of importing cannabis seeds follows strict regulations.
It is compulsory to be authorised by state-run agencies including the national agency for the legalisation of activities related to cannabis and the national office for the health safety of food products, which comes under the Health Ministry.
Importers must also obtain special permits from the Interior Ministry and the Agriculture Ministry.
Morocco’s decision to regulate cannabis cultivation is considered groundbreaking by some.
Others believe the country faces challenges while it seeks to incorporate the sector into its official economy, especially as dozens of farmers continue to cultivate the plant illegally due to the limited number of permits granted.
Press Release from Morocco: The Kingdom Re-elected to Represent Africa on the UN Commission on Narcotic Drugs
The UN Economic and Social Council on 4 April 2023 elected Morocco, by acclamation, as a member of the Commission on Narcotic Drugs, the UN's central decision-making body on drugs.
The Kingdom of Morocco, which currently sits on this Commission, whose work is held in Vienna, was re-elected on behalf of the Group of African States, for a term of 4 years from January 1, 2024.
Morocco's re-election to this important Commission for a third consecutive term is further confirmation of Morocco's pioneering role in regional and international efforts to combat the global drug problem in all its dimensions and ramifications.
It is also an eloquent expression of the trust placed in Morocco by the Member States of the United Nations to strengthen international and regional cooperation to combat the scourge of drugs, in particular by making available its rich and fruitful national experience in this field, which is respected by all regional and international actors active in this field.
This re-election also confirms the Kingdom's recent wise choice regarding the legal use of cannabis, medical, cosmetic and industrial, through the approval by the Parliament, in June 2021, of Law 13.21.
Indeed, after reviewing several recommendations of the World Health Organization, the Commission on Narcotic Drugs decided, through a resolution adopted on December 2, 2020, to remove cannabis from the strictest control lists - where it had been for 59 years - which discouraged even its use for medical purposes.
This decision paved the way for the recognition of the medicinal and therapeutic potential of cannabis and the strengthening of further scientific research on its medicinal properties.
The mandate of the Commission on Narcotic Drugs is to analyze the world drug situation, examining the interrelated issues of drug abuse prevention, drug rehabilitation, and illicit drug supply and trafficking.
It monitors the implementation of international drug control conventions and takes decisions on all matters relating to the control of narcotic drugs, psychotropic substances and their precursors.
The Commission works to strengthen action at the national, regional and international levels to accelerate the implementation of commitments to address and combat the world drug problem.