By / February 25, 2021

Cannabis Legal Use Bill in Morocco: Here’s everything you need to know

On the table of the Council of Government in Morocco, the bill on the legal use of cannabis (or Indian hemp) will be discussed this Thursday, February 25.

A far from legalizing the “recreational” use of cannabis, as some other countries have done, this text elaborated by the Ministry of the Interior, aims to regulate activities related to the cultivation of cannabis, its production, manufacture, transport, marketing as well as its export and import for medical and therapeutic purposes, while being subject to authorizations exclusively issued by a specialized agency.

Before sifting through the provisions of this text, the reasons behind the decision to provide a legal framework for these activities deserve to be examined.

Cannabis is an economic opportunity for Morocco

In its presentation note, the Ministry of the Interior recalls the new recommendations of the WHO, including that relating to the removal of this plant from Table IV of ‘substances with a strong abuse potential and without significant therapeutic value’. The milestone was adopted on February 11, 2020 by the National Commission on Narcotic Drugs and by the UN in December 2020.

The medical and therapeutic benefits of cannabis have pushed several countries to adopt laws to regulate activities related to this plant, even its “recreational” use. These countries include Canada, the Netherlands, Colombia, Spain, Switzerland, China, Ghana, 30 American states, Chile, Sweden, South Africa, and more.

This race for regulation is explained by the annual development of the international market for cannabis for medical use, since an average growth of 30% is expected at the world level and 60% at the European level.

Such are the findings emerging from the studies carried out on the opportunity of the development of licit cannabis in Morocco. They also show that, given the human, climatic and logistical assets that Morocco has, including its strategic geographical position, the international market for cannabis for medical use is an economic opportunity for the Kingdom.

Why Morocco is well positioned for, and to benefit from, legal cannabis

At the same time, the legal cultivation of cannabis will help free the populations engaged in illicit cultivation from the grip of traffickers, but also to protect the environment against deforestation, depletion of soil and water resources and other harmful phenomena exacerbated by the illegal cultivation of cannabis.

In addition, Morocco has acceded to all international conventions on narcotic drugs that authorize their use for licit purposes, particularly in the medical field. It has even been a forerunner in the legal separation between recreational and medical status, since the latter is governed by the Dahir of December 2, 1922, regulating the import, trade, possession and use of poisonous substances. In other words, current Moroccan legislation permits the use of cannabis and its derivatives for medical purposes.

In contrast, the 1954 Dahir prohibiting hemp kif prohibited the cultivation of the plant except in research establishments for exclusively scientific purposes.

Authorizations: Limited areas and beneficiaries

To seize this economic opportunity and develop a legal cannabis business, it is essential to go through the necessary legislative steps. To this effect, the bill drawn up by the Ministry of the Interior not only creates a specialized national agency, but also subjects the activities of cultivation, production, manufacture, transport, marketing, export and import of cannabis to authorizations that are only issued in compliance with certain conditions. Their violation is punished by fines or imprisonment of up to 2 years.

Indeed, the cultivation of cannabis will only be authorized in certain areas to be determined by decree. It will also be prohibited if the THC (tetrahydrocannabinol) contained in the hemp is higher than the threshold that will be set by an organic law, except if its use is for the manufacture of medical or pharmaceutical products. Idem for the production of cannabis.

To obtain authorizations for the cultivation and production of cannabis, the applicant must be of age and Moroccan nationality. He or she must reside in one of the douars in the provinces where the licit cultivation of cannabis will be authorized by decree.

The applicant must also be a member of a cooperative created for this purpose in accordance with Law 112.12, on cooperatives. The latter are the intermediaries between the cannabis grower and the production, processing or export companies. They undertake, through sales contracts, to deliver the growers’ harvests to them.

The applicant must also be the owner of a plot of land, or be authorized (by the owner) to cultivate cannabis, or obtain a certificate issued by the authorities administering the land.

As for import and export authorizations for cannabis, the applicant must, in addition to the above conditions, have a secure and supervised storage place. If he proves not to have one, he will be sanctioned by a fine ranging from 20,000 to 100,000 DH.

The authorizations for transformation, transport and manufacture of cannabis and its derivatives in Morocco will also be subject to the same condition and the same risks of sanctions.

In addition, to obtain these cannabis authorizations, the applicant must be a company subject to Moroccan law that has the qualified and sufficient material and human resources to carry out its activities. It must also comply with a set of specifications, drawn up by the specialized national agency, which provides, inter alia, conditions of storage, environmental protection, and technical and transport standards.

From authorizations to delivery, including control… The vast prerogatives of the Agency

Authorizations, which are valid for 10 years (renewable), are issued by the National Agency, which is a public institution under the supervision and financial control of the State. It has legal personality and financial independence. Its members are not entitled to carry out the activities subject to the authorizations it issues.

These authorizations however, may be withdrawn at the request of the person concerned or at the initiative of the Agency, in particular if there has been a stoppage of activity for two successive years, or in the event of violation of the provisions laid down in the law.

In the event of withdrawal or expiry of its period of validity, the authorization may no longer be used. Anyone who continues to do so is liable to a prison sentence ranging from 3 months to 2 years and a fine of 5,000 to 100,000 DH.

The Agency is responsible for following the course of cannabis at each of its stages (production, processing, manufacturing, marketing, export and import). The objective is to ensure that it is not used in an illegal circuit and that cannabis produced in an illegal framework is not introduced into this regulated process.

This institution empowers its agents to conduct investigations and carry out document and premises control. Any person who prevents them from carrying out their duties is liable to a prison sentence ranging from 6 months to 2 years and a fine of 10,000 to 20,000 DH.

In addition, the Agency is represented by some of these members in a commission which must imperatively attend all deliveries made by the cooperatives.

Within this framework, the representatives of the Agency are in charge of drawing up a report in which will be mentioned the information relating to the delivery (date, place, quantity, destination etc.) and in which are identified the members of the commission present as well as the carrier of the cannabis harvest.

In case of doubt about the capacity of a cooperative to ensure a delivery in good conditions, the Agency can take care of it directly.

Clearly the law establishes a comprehensive and elaborate system of regulation and oversight which could position Morocco at the heart of the growing legal cannabis industry.

(Featured image by Roberto Valdivia via Unsplash)

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First published in  MEDIA 24, a third-party contributor translated and adapted the article from the original. In case of discrepancy, the original will prevail.

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