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Behind the scenes of the PJD and the adoption of the cannabis legalization bill in Morocco

Right before the government council approved Bill 13-21 on the legal use of cannabis in Morocco, Saadeddine El Othmani tried to convince Abdelilah Benkirane to change his position on the text, which has shaken during the month of February, the ruling party.

Head of Government Saadeddine El Othmani and Abdelilah Benkirane. / DR
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The government council, which met Thursday in Rabat, approved Bill 13-21 on the legalization of cannabis in Morocco. The text, which sets a legal framework for the cultivation of cannabis for therapeutic purposes, will be sent to Parliament for final approval. Said bill also sets the legal framework for the creation of a National Agency for the use and cultivation of cannabis in the Kingdom.

Drafted and submitted by the Interior Ministry, the examination of the bill was postponed twice by the government council. The examination of Bill 13-21 sparked controversy within the Justice and Development Party (PJD), which has been leading the executive branch of the government of Morocco since 29 November 2011.

To iron out the differences, the head of government and PJD secretary general Saadeddine El Othmani visited this week Abdelilah Benkirane, one of the first party members who firmly opposed said bill.

El Othmani and Benkirane

Speaking to Yabiladi on Thursday, PJD member Slimane El Amrani confirmed this meeting, adding that El Othmani visited Abdelilah Benkirane at his home in Rabat. «I have not yet met with the Secretary General to find out what was discussed during said visit», he said.

For his part, former head of government Abdelilah Benkirane told Yabiladi that Saadeddine El Othmani explained to him the context of this bill on the legalization of cannabis. «But we did not discuss the content of the bill», he said. The former secretary general of the PJD added that his position on the bill presented by the Interior Ministry has not changed and «will not change».

«My position is still the same and I will not back down».

Abdelilah Benkirane

Slimane El Amrani and Abdelilah Benkirane thus confirm the information revealed by daily Asharq al-Awsat which indicated that the meeting was held on Tuesday, specifying that it took place in order «to ease tension within the party that was triggered by the discussion by the government of a bill on the use of cannabis».

A text that shakes the PJD

At the beginning of March, Abdelilah Benkirane threatened to freeze his membership in the party if the general secretariat of the political movement approved this bill, and to leave the PJD if its elected representatives voted this text in Parliament. His reaction encouraged other party members to respond, such as Hassan Hamourou, a member of the party's National Council who said he shared the same position.

The general secretariat of the Lamp party is also divided on this issue. On Saturday, during its weekly meeting, the party's executive body pleaded for the development of an impact study «on the bill», to open a public debate on this subject and «to broaden institutional consultations to his subject».

A few days earlier and as the government announced the review of the controversial text, the president of the PJD national council, Driss Azami El Idrissi announced his resignation. «Unfortunately, I can no longer tolerate, understand and cannot explain or accept what is happening inside the party. I cannot change it, and I cannot support it», he said. A resignation which coincided with the republication by Abdelilah Benkirane of an intervention dating from April 11, 2016 in which the former head of government condemned calls for the legalization of cannabis by other political parties in the country.

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