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Morocco celebrates huge cannabis harvest – legally for the first time

Nearly a million people live in areas of northern Morocco where cannabis is the main economic activity

Ahmed Eljechtimi
Monday 18 March 2024 11:55 GMT
Germany Legalizes Recreational Marijuana

Morocco’s first legal cannabis harvest was 294 metric tons in 2023, after the country approved its cultivation and export for medicine and industrial uses, the cannabis regulator has said said.

The harvest was made by 32 cooperatives that brought together 430 farmers covering 277 hectares in the northern Rif mountain areas of Al Houceima, Taounat and Chefchaouen, ANRAC claimed.

The United Nations drugs agency says about 47,000 hectares of the Rif are devoted to cannabis output, roughly a third of the amount in 2003 after government crackdowns.

Marijuana plants grow in Morocco ((Copyright 2021 The Associated Press. All rights reserved.))

This year, the regulator is examining applications by 1,500 farmers who organised themselves into 130 cooperatives, ANRAC said.

Cultivation of the local drought-enduring landrace, known as Beldia, began this month, it said.

Although Morocco is a major cannabis producer, officially cannabis use for recreational purposes is illegal. In practice, it is tolerated.

Nearly a million people live in areas of northern Morocco where cannabis is the main economic activity. It has been publicly grown and smoked there for generations, mixed with tobacco in traditional long-stemmed pipes with clay bowls.

The legalisation was intended to improve farmers’ incomes and protect them from drug traffickers who dominate the cannabis trade and export it illegally.

So far, two legal cannabis transformation units have been operating and two others are waiting for equipment, while 15 cannabis products are in the process of being authorised for medicinal use, ANRAC said.

Morocco is also seeking to tap into a growing global market for legal cannabis, and awarded 54 export permits last year.

Marijuana plants grow near a road in the Rif region, near Chefchaouen, Morocco (Reuters)

It comes as Germany has joined the small group of countries and jurisdictions that have legalised cannabis.

The Bundestag passed a law allowing individuals and voluntary associations to grow and hold limited quantities of the drug.

The law passed by Chancellor Olaf Scholz’s ruling three-party coalition legalises cultivating up to three plants for private consumption and owning up to 25 grams of cannabis.

Larger-scale, but still non-commercial, cannabis production will be allowed for members of so-called cannabis clubs with no more than 500 members, all of whom must be adults. Only club members can consume their product.

“We have two goals: to crack down on the black market and improved protection of children and young people,” Health Minister Karl Lauterbach said at the start of a rowdy debate where the opposition accused him of promoting drug use.

“You are asserting in all seriousness that by legalising more drugs we will contain drug use among young people,” said Christian Democrat legislator Tino Sorge.

“That is the most stupid thing I’ve ever heard.”

Germany becomes the ninth country to legalise recreational use of the drug, which is also legal in some sub-national jurisdictions in the United States and Australia.

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