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5 Dec, 2013 03:18

Morocco seeks legalization of marijuana cultivation and exports

Morocco seeks legalization of marijuana cultivation and exports

The Moroccan parliament has held a hearing into the industrial and medical benefits of marijuana use. The discussions, started by one of Morocco's main political parties are the first steps to introduce a draft law next year aimed at legalizing the plant.

The hearing, organized by the Party for Authenticity and Modernity (PAM), examined the financial exploitation of marijuana growth. PAM members argue that legalizing farming would help smallholders, as an estimated one million Moroccans depend on cultivation.

"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,"
said Milouda Hazib, head of the party's parliamentary delegation.

The debate included testimony on the Swiss know-hows in using marijuana for medical and industrial purposes. Setting up control and law enforcement mechanisms also occupied the debate as PAM seeks to allow farmers to sell their yields to the government rather than to drug traffickers.

"Security policies aren't solving the problem because it's an economic and social issue so the PAM is trying to find a credible alternative," PAM’s Mehdi Bensaid said. "We think this crop can become an important economic resource for Morocco and the citizens of this region."

(FILES) Farmers distroy cannabis plantations under Moroccan police supervision in the northern Moroccan Larache region (AFP Photo / Abdelhak Senna)

The aim of the party is to convince other parties to support legislation next year that would legalize cannabis.

Illegal marijuana cultivation annually reaches 10 percent of Morocco’s economy with sales estimated at $10 billion, according to the Moroccan Network for the Industrial and Medicinal Use of Marijuana.

Legalizing cultivation could boost exports of marijuana-based products, such as medicines and textiles in a country which seeks to reduce its budget deficit of 23 percent of gross domestic product

According to the UN, Morocco is responsible for 42 percent of the world supply of marijuana. Cannabis farms are mainly found in the north of the country in the Rif Mountains. The region is also one of the nation’s poorest where GDP per capita is 50 percent of the national average.

Authorities in Morocco have waged a slash-and-burn campaign against marijuana in the country reducing planted areas to 47,000 hectares in 2010 from 137,000 hectares in 2003, according to the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime.