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In Europe's cannabis market, Morocco faces stiff competition from Israel

A cannabis field is seen in the village of Azila in Ketama region at the foot of the marginalized and underdeveloped mountainous region of Rif, Morocco, Sept. 16, 2022.

Israel's Health Ministry announcement in August to liberalize its laws on the use of medical cannabis will significantly widen the drug's use in a health-care setting, as well as boost exports of the product to foreign markets and with that the rivalry with Morocco.

While the drug has been legal for medical use since the early 1990s, the new proposals, which are due to come into force in December, grant cannabis access to patients with a broad range of health conditions including epilepsy, dementia and autism without a license  — they will simply need to obtain a prescription. The Israeli Health Ministry has said that cannabis will be seen as a “first line treatment” rather than a “last resort.” The export process has also been simplified for shipments to Europe, bringing Israeli regulations more in line with Europe’s Good Manufacturing Practices.

One of Israel’s regional peers, Morocco, has also taken steps to promote the production and exportation of medical cannabis. In 2021, the Moroccan parliament passed a law that allows for the production of cannabis for medical, cosmetic and industrial purposes. In October 2022, Rabat issued the first 10 permits to produce cannabis products, and in March 2023, construction began on the first formal cannabis laboratory in the Chefchaouen region.

The Moroccan government has explicitly stated its ambition of contributing at least 10% of the European medical cannabis market by 2028 — worth $4.2 billion out of an estimated $42 billion market, according to Morocco's state news agency MAP. But with Israel now expressing the same ambition, the two countries appear to be headed for direct competition.

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