Authorities in Morocco announced on Sunday the official start of its first legal cannabis growing season, 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.