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Businesses hope to benefit from new cannabis law

(1 Jul 2021) LEAD IN:
A landmark bill that would legalize non-recreational uses of marijuana in Morocco looks set to boost a variety of businesses.
Businesses in the North African country smell opportunity, including ventures creating beauty products with popular CBD oil.

From serums to creams, soaps to shampoos, CBD oil is appearing in a wide range of beauty products.
CBD, short for cannabidiol, is one of many chemicals found in cannabis, a plant known more commonly as marijuana. It’s a popular ingredient with unproven health claims.
Customer Saloua Ibrahimi says she’s been using hair products that contain CBD for years.
“When we say cannabis, we directly think of drugs or cigarettes, but on the contrary, it has many benefits,” she says.
“I have been using it for two years and it has given me a good result.”
A bill that would legalize non-recreational uses of marijuana in Morocco is in its final stages of approval by the Moroccan parliament, that could benefit a variety of businesses.
Nouara Ain Lhjar, a cooperative twelve kilometers north of city Tetouan, was created in 2011.
Specialists in extracting vegetable oils, in 2017, they began the production of CBD cosmetic products, including shampoo, shower gel, skin serums, creams and soaps.
Cannabis has been cultivated in Morocco for centuries. In 2003, it covered an area of 134,000 hectares (more than 330,000 acres), mostly in the northern Rif region.
“The old women used the seeds of cannabis without knowing their benefits and especially for the hair,” says Hafida Ait Aissa, owner of Nouara Ain Lhjar.
“They put them in vegetable oils, and they used it later and it gave a good result for the hair. Unfortunately, cannabis was used more for the wrong reasons, they didn’t use it for the right reasons.”
To create its wide array of cosmetic products, the cooperative requires one important raw material – cannabis seeds.
They’re bought from local farmers. They use about 300 kilograms of seeds annually.
“Before, it was difficult to obtain cannabis seeds, but today, they are available either regionally or nationally,” says Hafida Ait Aissa.
“They are available in the markets, especially during the summer, because it is the harvest season of these seeds, where we can have large quantities.”
Hafida says she saw how CBD was being used in a variety of products after attending international exhibitions.
“We said why don’t we do the same thing in our country, especially with the legalization of the use of this product, we can also promote this product,” she explains.  
On 14 June, Morocco’s House of Representatives approved a bill that would legalize non-recreational use of marijuana. It’s still waiting on a few final approvals before becoming law.
The law would authorize medical, cosmetic, and industrial uses.
If it passes, Morocco would be one of the few countries in the region – or in the Arab world – to legalize the drug for non-recreational use. Recreational use would remain illegal.
The move will set the North African kingdom – among the top global producers – on the path of creating a regulated market for an industry that has long been dominated by drug traffickers.
“With this new law of legalization of cannabis for medical and cosmetic uses, it will give a great value for this plant,” says Hafida Ait Aissa.
“It will help us a lot especially the farmers, to work with freedom, and especially to prevent the bad uses of this plant.”
It’s also hoped to move will help farmers and create more jobs for workers in the industry.

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