RABAT - Moroccan lawmakers will examine cannabis consumption for medical and industrial purposes for the first time on Wednesday, at the request of politicians campaigning for its partial legalisation, a campaigner said.
The session will look at the positive uses of cannabis cultivation "in creating an alternative economy" in Morocco, one of the world's top exporters of the drug, known locally as "kif."
"We are organising a research day in parliament on Wednesday, on the use of medical kif, with Moroccan and international experts present," Mehdi Bensaid, an MP with the Party of Authenticity and Modernity (PAM), a liberal opposition party founded by a politician close to the king, said.
"The idea is to start a debate on that, to see what others' experiences in this field can tell us, looking at controlled rather than total legalisation," he added.
The group of PAM MPs behind the project has invited international experts and NGOs, including two Swiss specialists, to take part in the "open debate," which Bensaid called "the first step towards a draft law."
Cannabis is cultivated in large quantities in the Rif Mountains of northern Morocco, where it was only outlawed in the 1970s.
The authorities say that in the past decade they have dramatically reduced the area where the plant is grown.
But an estimated 90,000 households, or 760,000 Moroccans, still depend on kif production, according to official figures, while record hauls of illegally-trafficked Moroccan hashish have been announced in neighbouring Spain this year.
Those campaigning to have cannabis partially legalised in Morocco say it would boost much needed development in the Rif region, benefiting the producers -- mostly poor farmers -- rather than people illegally trafficking the drug, who currently reap the largest profits.
Cannabis use for medicinal purposes has been authorised in a growing number of Western countries, including Holland, Spain, Germany, Italy, Britain, Canada, Australia, several US states, and most recently the Czech Republic.