Law enforcement officials in Morocco completed a massive drug bust this week in the southern part of the country.
The Moroccan General Directorate of National Security said on Tuesday “that police dismantled an international drug trafficking network,” as reported by Morocco World News, which noted that the raid resulted in the arrest of “five suspects aged between 24 and 44 for their alleged involvement in the network.”
The General Directorate of National Security, or DGSN, which serves as Morocco’s national police force, provided details of the operation on Twitter, where it said that a “joint security operation between the judicial police and the interests of the General Directorate of National Territorial Surveillance … resulted in the abortion of an attempt to smuggle international goods of two tons and 120 kilograms of shira, and the seizure of an inflatable boat and equipment used in maritime navigation.”
According to Morocco World News, the country “has been intensifying its efforts against drug trafficking.”
“Last year, Moroccan police handled 82,950 cases related to the possession and trafficking of drugs. Security services sent 103,589 people to court, including 261 foreigners,” the outlet reported. “During the same year, police seized 191 tonnes and 158 kilograms of cannabis, which is one of the most common drugs in Morocco. The amount of cannabis seized in 2021, represents a decrease of 12% compared to 2020.”
The stepped-up level of enforcement comes at a time of significant change to Morocco’s laws governing cannabis. Long regarded as one of the world’s leading producers of cannabis, Moroccan lawmakers last year passed a law “authorizing the therapeutic use of cannabis, a major reform for this North African country considered to be one of the leading producers of hashish in the world,” Agence France-Presse reported at the time.
“The objective of the bill… is to ‘reconvert illicit crops that destroy the environment into legal activities that are sustainable and generate value and employment,’” Agence France-Presse explained. “The deputies of the Justice and Development Party (PJD), at the head of the government coalition, were the only ones to vote against the text presented by the executive, denouncing ‘hastiness and risk of exploitation during the electoral campaigns’ for the regional ones in September and the legislative ones at the beginning of October.”
In October, the country issued the first round of cannabis cultivation permits. The newly formed National Agency for the Regulation of Cannabis Activities (ANRAC), which is acting as the chief regulator of the Moroccan cannabis industry, issued 10 permits for both production and cultivation.
Morocco World News reported at the time that, following the first licenses, “ANRAC will begin authorizing farmers to legally cultivate and produce cannabis within a tightly regulated framework of agricultural cooperatives.”
“This procedure will take place at the provincial level in the provinces of Al Hoceima, Chefchaouen, and Taounate, in accordance with the expressed needs of the industry,” the outlet reported. “ANRAC is still investigating the market’s prospects in order to produce sector-wide growth and make the conversion of farmers from illegal to legal activities easier, the statement concluded.”
The outlet provided more background on the policy change:
“Over the past years, Morocco has shifted its approach towards putting in place a legal framework to allow legal cannabis production while fighting illicit cultivation and commercialization of the popular product. In June this year, Interior Minister Abdelouafi Laftit participated in the first meeting of ANRAC. The meeting’s goal was to discuss the final stages of the implementation of Law 13-21, which details the authorized uses of cannabis. The meeting also authorized the agency’s initial steps, which included the establishment of the first cooperatives for the production of local medicinal cannabis. Morocco’s regulation 13-21 hopes to ensure that farmers switch to legal cannabis cultivation in order to increase their revenue and improve labor conditions, but does little to capitalize on Morocco’s massive illicit cannabis production which supplies 70% of Europe’s cannabis needs.”