It’s illegal to use, purchase or sell cannabis in Morocco. It’s also illegal to grow it, but despite this fact, the country is the world’s biggest cannabis exporter. Most of the crops grow around the Rif mountains, though it’s fairly common to see people smoking hashish in pipes everywhere. Some politicians are fighting to make cannabis use legal.
Cannabis laws in Morocco
Can you possess and use cannabis in Morocco?
It’s illegal to use or possess cannabis in Morocco. The country was a signatory to the United Nations Conventions on Narcotic Drugs and Psychotropic Substances Act (1961, 1971 and 1988), and the law refers to drugs as ‘poisonous substances’.
Morocco adopted an anti-cannabis stance under the French protectorate (though in the Spanish regions of the country, its cultivation was tolerated). Even after gaining its independence in 1954, it kept most of the anti-drugs legislation. This remained unchanged until the Criminal Code of Morocco was established in 1962. This document outlines several key principles:
- If an offender is caught using cannabis, they may be placed in a treatment facility
- They may also have their assets confiscated
- They may be subject to punishment for possessing drugs
The Criminal Code states that drugs-related offences can be punished with up to 30 years in prison, and a fine of up to €60,000. Those caught using drugs can face up to 10 years imprisonment, though this sentence isn’t given very often.
Although using cannabis is illegal in the country, it is largely tolerated by the authorities. Indeed, the smoking of hashish is deeply rooted in Moroccan heritage, which is why many people in the country continue to call for its legalisation.
The Moroccan government seem to be coming around to the idea. Since 2011, the country’s parliament has been considering making cannabis legal for both industrial and medicinal purposes. In 2014, one political party proposed a bill to legalise it; but this bill failed, and the movement was further impeded by the resignation of Ilyas El Omari – a prominent advocate for the decriminalisation of cannabis.
Can you sell cannabis in Morocco?
While it’s illegal to sell cannabis in Morocco, it’s commonplace to see it being sold across the country, particularly in cities like Marrakech, Fez and Casablanca, and the cannabis-growing region of Rif where Chefchauoen is the capital.
In cafes, local men will often purchase hashish then smoke it through a water-pipe called a hookah. These hookah pipes are also sold at markets, though they might be more discreetly positioned towards the back of the stall or shop.
Can you grow cannabis in Morocco?
Moroccan law bans the cultivation of cannabis, and if you’re caught growing it, you could face a prison sentence and a fine. In spite of this, there are numerous cannabis plantations across the country, particularly in the mountainous Rif region. According to Bloomberg, the cannabis industry employs 800,000 people in the country, and provides a living for around 90,000 to 140,000 families. It’s also estimated that the cannabis grown generates $10billion a year.
Given this figure, it’s unsurprising that some farmers believe Moroccan authorities want to legalise cannabis so they can profit from the market.
Is CBD legal in Morocco?
CBD isn’t differentiated from cannabis in Moroccan law, so technically it’s illegal. This is despite the fact that it has very low levels of THC, the substance responsible for providing the ‘high’.
Can cannabis seeds be sent to Morocco?
Any form of cannabis cultivation is illegal in Morocco, and as a result, the sale or purchasing of cannabis seeds is forbidden by law. This includes mailing them in and out of the country.
Medicinal cannabis in Morocco
Morocco’s government have expressed an interest in legalising cannabis for medicinal purposes in the past. This seems to be focused more on economic gain than healthcare benefits. In 2013, parliament considered regulating cannabis for medicinal purposes, and in 2014, the opposition party put forward a bill to legalise cannabis entirely.
Ex-Prime minister Abdelilah Benkirane (Islamist Justice and Development Party) also considered decriminalising the entire hashish industry. Milouda Hazib, head of the Party for Authenticity and Modernity, stated: “We are not seeking to legalise the production of drugs, but to search for possible medical and industrial uses of this plant and create an alternative economy in the region.”
Industrial hemp in Morocco
At present, it’s illegal to grow hemp in Morocco. However, the government have often discussed the possibility of legalising the cultivation of cannabis for industrial and medicinal purposes only. This would match evolving international practices – as many other countries across the globe generate excellent profit from industrial hemp.
Morocco is in a good position to turn hemp cultivation into a booming industry. As the world’s largest hashish supplier, it’s already got a proven track-record of producing large quantities of high-quality cannabis. In 2013, the country’s parliament reviewed the economic potential of legalising cannabis farming for industrial purposes. As yet, no decision has been made.
Morocco’s political parties and cannabis
Many of Morocco’s politicians adopt a positive stance to legalising cannabis; though they are often met with opposition from other political parties.
One major parliamentary group, PAM, has been outspoken in the past about their support of legalisation. They are backed by other prominent parties, such as the USFP and the Istiqlal party. However, the Islamist conservative party PJD, who often hold a parliamentary majority, are against it.
It’s certainly a suggestion that seems to be gaining more popularity among Morocco’s political circles.
Good to know
If you are travelling to Morocco (or currently live there), you may be interested to know the following:
- A recent report found that one in ten high school students in Morocco had tried cannabis.
- In 2015, UNODC estimated that Morocco’s outdoor cannabis production was in the region of 38,000 tonnes. Its indoor production amounted to 760 tonnes.
It’s believed that cannabis first entered Morocco at some point between the 7th and 15th century. Arab traders brought the plant with them, and by the 18th century, it was widely grown across the country; particularly in the Rif mountains.
Traditionally, Moroccans mixed the cannabis with tobacco, then smoked it through a pipe with a clay or copper bowl (a sebsi). It was also used in tea and sweets, but it wasn’t used much for medicinal purposes. Local administrators collected taxes on the sale of cannabis. By the end of the 19th century, 90% of France’s medicinal cannabis requirements were met by Moroccan imported plants.
Cannabis cultivation continued unabated until 1912, when the country was divided into two territories. The northern part was under Spanish protectorate and the centre under French protectorate. At this point, cannabis growth and trade came under scrutiny. The Spanish-governed cannabis farmers were treated with leniency. The French territories didn’t adopt such a liberal approach.
The Régie Marocaine des Kifs et Tabacs (Moroccan Management of all cannabis and tobaccos) were given all decision-making power when it came to cannabis in the French territories. This multinational public company then decided that all cannabis cultivation and manufacture was illegal outside their headquarters in Tangier.
However, their control didn’t extend as far as the Rif mountains in the Spanish regions. Here, the cannabis farms continued to flourish.
By 1916, the effects of the French policy of cannabis prohibition were starting to be felt. The policy forbade the cultivation of cannabis in the French territories, with the exception of Tangier and Casablanca.
In 1932, a Dahir (decree) was published, which declared that “the cultivation of cannabis is prohibited in the entire French-governed zone of Morocco.” By 1956, Morocco had finally regained its independence from Spain and France. However, the prohibition of cannabis, established by the French, was maintained – only now, the legislation applied to the entire country.
Since then, the country has had a contradictory approach to cannabis laws; continuously shifting from tolerance to complete illegalisation.
Attitudes to cannabis
Attitudes to cannabis in Morocco tend to be fairly permissive; and this applies to the authorities as well as the citizens themselves. Although some religious groups protest the use of cannabis, and some regard it as a ‘gateway drug’, its usage is prevalent across the entire country.
Thousands of tourists visit northern Morocco to experience ‘kif’ – the local’s name for hashish. The locals (particularly around the cannabis-growing regions) have capitalised on this opportunity, by catering specifically to holiday-makers. There are cannabis tours, and in 2017, there was even a ‘Bombola Ganja’ festival, which was an evening event for cannabis-smokers, held around a hotel swimming pool.
This tourism has a dark side. Children around the Rif mountains are often made to work in the cannabis fields, and cook traditional tagine for the tourists. They’re also often made to sell hashish to foreigners.
The scale of Morocco’s cannabis industry
Morocco is the world’s largest producer of cannabis resin (hashish). According to the International Narcotics Control Board, close to three-quarters of the world’s hashish originates from Morocco, in an industry that’s believed to be worth around EUR 10billion each year. This represents around 10% of the country’s total GDP (though this has been higher in the past – in 2012, it was 23%).
Most of the cannabis in Morocco is grown in the Rif region to the north of the country. Despite the fact that the cannabis trade is booming here, many people in Rif live in relative poverty. Their per capita income is 50% lower than the rest of the country.
In the past, the Moroccan government has adopted a tough stance towards the cannabis industry, and has focused on eradicating plantations. However, in recent years, the authorities have become more interested in the plant’s profit-making potential, and its ability to boost the economy.
How is hashish made in Morocco?
Traditionally, the cannabis is harvested in autumn, then stored indoors for a month to let it dry thoroughly. Then, the dried stalks are placed onto a finely woven fabric stretched over a metal bowl. These stalks are beaten, which makes the THC-high trichomes fall into the bowl below. The first cannabis (or ‘kif’) from these stalks is the best quality.
The stalks are then beaten a second and third time, with the quality decreasing with every beating. The trichomes are either packaged straight away, or pressed and heated to make slabs of hashish.
Will cannabis be legalised in the future?
Given the number of parliamentary discussions taking place in recent years, it seems likely that Morocco will soon legalise cannabis for medicinal and industrial purposes. As for recreational use? The authorities largely turn a blind eye to hashish smokers, despite the fact that it’s illegal. There’s a possibility that the government will decriminalise its use in the future – but this hasn’t been explicitly stated by any politician yet.
- Disclaimer:While every effort has been made to ensure the accuracy of this article, it is not intended to provide legal advice, as individual situations will differ and should be discussed with an expert and/or lawyer.