Morocco issues first permits to produce cannabis for medicinal and industrial use

Licensed farmers in three northern regions will be allowed to establish co-operatives and legally cultivate and produce cannabis

Moroccan farmland. Reuters
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Morocco has issued 10 permits for the production and export of cannabis for medicinal, pharmaceutical and industrial purposes.

The National Agency for the Legalisation of Activities Related to Cannabis (Anrac) has issued the permits for farmers in the three northern mountainous cities of Al Houceima, Taounat and Chefchaouen, which are known for cannabis farming, the Moroccan news agency (Map) reported, quoting a statement issued by the state agency.

The statement said the licensed farmers would be allowed to establish co-operatives to be registered with Anrac to legally cultivate and produce cannabis.

The law was approved by the House of Representatives in May 2021 with an overwhelming majority of 119 votes to 48 and no abstentions.

The law does not permit the recreational use of cannabis, allowing its use only for medicinal and industrial purposes. It is intended to improve farmers' incomes and protect them from drug traffickers who control the cannabis trade and export it illegally to Europe.

Medicinal cannabis is used in some countries to treat conditions such as multiple sclerosis and epilepsy.

“Permits will be granted to farmers gradually, based on the needs expressed by the licensed industrial operators,” the agency said.

“The National Agency for the Legalisation of Activities Related to Cannabis continues to explore the opportunities offered by the cannabis market in order to develop this sector and promote the transformation of farmers from illegal activity towards legal, sustainable and income-generating cultivation.”

Foreign investment

The state agency, which is affiliated with the Ministry of Interior, held its first board of directors meeting in June.

After the meeting, the ministry said in a statement published by the official news agency that the agency is tasked with implementing the kingdom's strategy in the field of cultivation, production, manufacturing, transformation, marketing, export and import of cannabis products for medical, pharmaceutical and industrial purposes.

The agency is also responsible for monitoring and supervising the various stages of this legalised cannabis activity, from seed production to the marketing of the final product, and support for research.

It is also hoped that it will help to attract foreign investments in the processing of cannabis products and transform the illegal cultivation of the plant into legal sustainable activities as well as crack down on smuggling networks.

Morocco lies on Europe's doorstep and is potentially well placed to become a top legitimate exporter.

Cannabis farms cover between 47,000 and 55,000 hectares in the north-east of the kingdom, according to figures reported in the Moroccan media.

The Ministry of Interior estimated in a study published last year that the net income for every hectare from cannabis produced for medicinal purposes would be 110,000 Moroccan dirhams ($10,000) annually.

The study, published by the media portal of the Ministry of Culture and Communication, said Moroccan cannabis for medicinal and industrial purposes could represent from 10 per cent to 15 per cent of the European market, mainly in the Netherlands, Spain, the UK and Germany, which means an annual income of between $420 million to $630m based on the two percentages.

The agri-food sector is a major driver of economic and social development for Moroccan citizens.

According to the World Bank’s latest figures, the sector amounts to 21 per cent of the gross domestic product and accounts for nearly 39 per cent of employment, more so in rural areas.

The UN Office on Drugs and Crime in its latest report cautioned against the legalisation of drugs, including cannabis, for recreational purposes.

It said it caused a surge of people with psychiatric disorders, increased suicides and hospital admissions while generally reducing arrests for possession.

It also highlighted the environmental effects of plant-based drugs because it can, as with some other agricultural crops, affect the soil and water, while their final production, including chemical processing and waste, can also affect the air.

Climate change and population growth ― currently at nearly 38 million ― are putting increased pressure on water and land resources in Morocco.

Updated: October 06, 2022, 12:05 PM