After decades without legal cover, farmer Mohamed Morabet looks forward to selling his hashish this summer on the open market now that Morocco plans to legalise cannabis for medical use.
The government of the world’s top hashish- producing nation last month ratified a draft bill to legalise its medical use, and parliament is expected to debate the legislation this week.
“We will finally come out of clandestinity,” said Morabet as he tended to his freshly sown fields of “kif” — literally “pleasure” in Arabic and the term used for cannabis in Morocco.
“We used to live in fear,” added the 60-year-old farmer whose fields lie in the fabled northern Ketama region at the foot of the marginalised and underdeveloped mountainous region of Rif.
According to a report released last year by the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC), Morocco is the world’s biggest producer of cannabis resin, or hashish.
Cannabis output in the North African country was estimated to total more than 700 tonnes in a study last year by the Global Initiative against Transnational Organised Crime.
That same year more than 217 tonnes of cannabis were seized by authorities, according to official figures.
It was banned in Morocco in 1954 but has been tolerated as its cultivation provides a livelihood for 80,000 to 120,000 families, according to unofficial estimates.
Now the kingdom hopes that cultivating cannabis for medical use will become a lucrative business and place Morocco on the global market.
– Reaping profits –
According to Morocco’s interior ministry, the market worldwide is growing at an annual rate of 30 percent, and by 60 percent a year in Europe.
Farmers, who only made a small profit while traffickers for decades reaped the benefits from the sale of cannabis, are also hopeful for a more profitable future.
But some, like Morabet, have voiced reservations.