Mohamed Morabet, a Moroccan farmer, is planning to come out of the shadows this summer and sell his hashish on the open market, as Morocco prepares to legalize cannabis for medicinal purposes.
Last month, the government of the world’s top hashish-producing country ratified a draft bill to legalize the drug’s medicinal use, and parliament is set to discuss it this week.
Morocco is the world’s largest manufacturer of cannabis resin, or hashish, according to a study published last year by the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC).
Morabet said, “We agree with the legalization (of cannabis) because we will finally come out of clandestinity and we will be able to hold our heads high when the inhabitants mobilize in the form of cannabis production cooperatives.”
“However, despite this situation, the inhabitants are reluctant.”
Some are therefore concerned that they will not make as much money.
According to a farmer, Fadoul Azouz , “If the legalisation is in our interest for example with the sale price, it will be good because we will no longer have any problems, but if the price they offer us is not a good rate, we will all lose out.”
Profit in a legal market
However, authorities and analysts claim that these concerns are unfounded and that Morocco has the potential to become a global competitor in the industry.
Farmers could reap 12 percent in a “legal economy,” according to officials, compared to four percent now.
Farmers are hoping that the interior ministry will designate farming areas in their districts, where they have been operating for decades.
“We ask for the installation of factories here in these regions so the young people and locals can work internationally, in the so-called historical areas of cannabis cultivation: Béni Sdet, Ketama and Béni Khaled,” Morabet stated.
If the bill is passed, the interior ministry is required to urge farmers to form a “cooperative” to sell their crop to a “public agency.”
According to official estimates, about 55,000 hectares (136,000 acres) of land in Rif were used to cultivate hashish in 2019, compared to 134,000 hectares in 2003.
In 2016-2017, social unrest shook the northern Rif which is a marginalized area.
Farmers like Said Yarou, 25, who work on a family plantation, hope that legalization will help unemployed youths find employment.
Morocco has had a cannabis ban since 1954, but it has been permitted because agriculture offers a living for up to 120,000 people.
In a survey conducted last year by the Global Initiative against Transnational Organized Crime, cannabis production in the North African country was reported to be over 700 tonnes.
According to government reports, officials confiscated more than 217 tonnes of cannabis in the same year.