After failing at previous efforts, Morocco is set to open the door for the production of medical cannabis.
The stage is set after “the co-ruling PJD party, the largest in parliament, dropped its opposition,” according to Reuters.
The PJD shifted its position following a decision by the United Nations in December to remove marijuana from the list of the world’s most dangerous drugs.
The U.N. Commission for Narcotic Drugs reclassified cannabis under the 1961 Single Convention on Narcotic Drugs, under which it was categorized as a Schedule IV drug, the same classification as heroin and other more dangerous substances.
The move was backed by the United States and European member states, while countries such as Russia, China, Egypt, Nigeria, and Pakistan opposed the change in classification. Morocco voted in favor of the change. It passed narrowly, by a vote of 27-25.
While the change in classification did not impose any direct changes on the respective cannabis laws in U.N. member states, experts did predict that the move would in December – which came after 53 member states convened in Vienna – would embolden countries to take the type of action seen in Morocco this week.
The Bill Could Pass Next Week
According to Reuters, the Moroccan bill is expected to pass next week and will aim “to improve farmers’ incomes, protect them from drug traffickers who now control the trade in cannabis and gain access to the booming legal international market for the drug.”
Reuters, which reviewed the draft law, said that the bill “envisages a national agency to monitor production, transportation and sales.”
It will still require approval from the PJD, but Reuters notes that cannabis has “long been tolerated” in Morocco, which “is among the top global producers.”
Reuters reported that Morocco’s interior ministry said that the country “reduced the amount of land where cannabis is cultivated from 134,000 hectares in 2003 to 47,000 hectares six years ago.” Despite that, recreational pot will remain illegal in Morocco.
The move by the Moroccan government comes nearly a year after Lebanon became the first Arab country to legalize marijuana.
The country’s parliament took up the matter last March, citing marijuana as a means to turn around its sluggish economy.
As in Morocco, marijuana had long been cultivated in Lebanon despite its illegal status, and its hashish exports are ubiquitous throughout Europe.
In April of last year, it became official, with Lebanon’s parliament eschewing opposition from Islamist groups and passing a proposal that made cannabis farming legal.
While Morocco was spurred to act after a policy change by the United Nations, Lebanon’s motivation came from an elite consulting group. In 2018, McKinsey & Company prepared a report for the Lebanese government on a number of actions it could take to restore the country’s troubled economy, including an assessment of “the economic impact of shifting Lebanon’s illicit market to a regulated market for medicinal use.”
McKinsey didn’t explicitly recommend legalization, though it did – as Business Insider reported at the time – ”detail the positive economic benefits.”