On March 11, Morocco’s cabinet approved a bill to legalize medical cannabis. The bill will now pass to Morocco’s parliament for consideration. If the bill ultimately succeeds, Morocco will become a true pioneer, as only the second country in the Arab world to legalize any form of cannabis.

Under the terms of the bill, cannabis cultivation will be permitted only in certain sectors in the Rif mountains. This reflects the government’s concerns with boosting farmers’ incomes in a region that has “seen protests over economic inequality.”

What will happen in parliament is anyone’s guess. The largest party in the governing coalition, the Justice and Development Party (PJD), is split on the issue. As demonstrated by cabinet’s approval, the PJD leadership is supportive of the bill. However, there is dissent amongst the rank-and-file, which some fear could lead to division within the party. A former PJD secretary general, Abdelilah Benkirane, has “frozen” his party membership over the bill, declaring cannabis to be “evil” and inconsistent with Islam.

In addition to disagreements over cannabis, the acrimony also reflects dissatisfaction from PJD hardliners over the government’s warm relationship with Israel. Moreover, Algeria has expressed concern about the potential impact of legalization across the border

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