Morocco announced last week that it would be legalizing the farming of cannabis (CBD) for medical purposes, thereby facilitating the birth of a lucrative industry. The North African country is the second Arab country to do so, after Lebanon legalized CBD in early 2020. This beckons the question: will other MENA countries follow suit in the coming years?
But what exactly has sparked CBD’s popularity in recent years? You may have heard the term being thrown around in popular media, with celebrities like Kim Kardashian hosting CBD-themed baby showers, and cult platforms like Gwyneth Paltrow’s Goop promoting its widespread benefits, even through her popular Netflix special, The Goop Lab with Gwyneth Paltrow. But aside from celebrities, it is in fact professional industries, like the medical and wellness ones that have substantiated and provided robust proof of the product’s legitimacy with regards to healing. Morocco is the second Arab country to do so, after Lebanon legalized CBD in early 2020.
CBD products come in a variety of forms, most notably as oils and tinctures, infused topical creams and even as gummies or other edibles.
Yet many Middle Eastern countries remain steadfast in their unanimous ban of CBD-derived products. Having established that the derivatives are void of THC (the psychoactive ingredient found in marijuana that produces a high), it appears the products’ very origins of marijuana and hemp bring its legitimacy into question and cause it to fall under the narcotics domain, arguably creating a slippery slope from the viewpoint of law enforcement agencies. The cultural and religious conservativeness of the region tend to box the topic in its entirety within a grey space, with several governing bodies regarding the possession and use of CBD-derived products as drug trafficking, which in all countries remains a strictly punishable offense.
But could it be that in the future, with more widespread discussion and understanding, and perhaps the region’s medical and wellness industries airing on the side of advocacy, that we could perhaps start to witness an easing of laws with regards to possession and/or use of CBD? Could it be that governments would be inclined to put in place certain regulations and guidelines to help administer and usher in CBD products as a modality of healing?
Amsterdam-based designer and founder of popular Middle Eastern brand Mochi, Ayah Tabari, suffered from chronic lower back pain and anxiety. Having tried an array of other therapeutics, it was eventually an LA-based friend who recommended and introduced Ayah to CBD. “I’ve used CBD in topical form, and I can’t measure nor explain the instant relief I experienced as a result,” she says. “With my muscles feeling instantly relaxed, and the pain diminishing, I was convinced of its medicinal properties. Though the effects are not terribly long lasting, I was still very pleased by the results, and how it made me feel, hence why I continue to be an avid user of CBD.”
So there we have it, a broader knowledge of the CBD industry, and how global markets have see-sawed with the idea of legalizing it as a whole. With open markets like the United States and United Kingdom only recently having embraced CBD from a legal standpoint, will we soon see a trend sparking more broadly across the MENA region?