Morocoo is going to pot! Rabat eyes giving hashish legalization law the "green" light
Moroccan farmers, many who are impoverished and under the mercy of drug lords, rely on profits from cannabis cultivation as their main source of income due to poor soil conditions that make growing other crops in the area nearly impossible (File Archive)
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According to the Associated Press, one of Morocco's main political parties, the Party for Authenticity and Modernity, initiated steps Wednesday to legalize pot under law.
The North African country supplies more than 42 percent of the world's "high" according to UN figures, with most of its cannabis crop consumed in Europe.
For Moroccans, however, legalizing pot is not just about lightin' up and then some. The cultivation and export of cannabis is a critical cornerstone of small farmers' incomes and the country's economy overall.
According to Milouda Hazib, the head of the Party for Authenticity and Modernity's parliamentary delegation, more than 1 million Moroccans make their living from growing the cannabis crop. “We are not seeking to legalize the production of drugs, but to search for possible medical and industrial uses of this plant and create an alternative economy in the region,” she said.
For many farmers in Morocco's Rif Mountains, who represents some of the most impoverished individuals in the country, cannabis is one of the few crops that thrive in the area's poor soil conditions. Attempts to grow other plants have often failed, forcing farmers in the area to rely on the contentious green as their main source of income.
The party and allied lawmakers also hope that legalizing pot will curb drug lords' activity in the country.
“Security policies aren’t solving the problem because it’s an economic and social issue so PAM is trying to find a credible alternative,” said party member Mehdi Bensaid. “We think this crop can become an important economic resource for Morocco and the citizens of this region.”
Bensaid and other party members hope that Morocco will follow in the cannabis footsteps of countries such as Switzerland who have used marijuana and other forms of hashish for medical and industrial purposes. The next challenge for the party, however, is recruiting other parties to join the pot policy parade and legalizing cannabis cultivation under law by next year, according to Bensaid.Many parties, such as Morocco's moderate Islamist party, have already come out in support of the legalizing legislation, but it is not yet clear what additional hurdles and scrutiny the proposal will face from other members of parliament due to potential sanctions the country may face from the UN if pot is legalized for recreational use under the 1961 drug control treaty. However, the treaty does provide reprieve for "legal and industrial applications" related to the legalization of pot.
Morocco's marijuana-growing exploded in the 1960s due to rising demand in Europe, and previously was grown under colonial authority as a way to "rebel" against the country's foreign leadership.