Last month the governing PJD parliamentary group proposed a law criminalising the trade and consumption of shisha or use of hookahs in public places, including pubs, nightclubs, clubs and all business establishments. The move was greeted with dismay by major hotels, bar owners and tourism operators, who say that "shisha and mint tea" are experiences sought after by tourists visiting the country
The bill set out to punish any trade involving the sale of shisha with a prison sentence ranging from one year to five years and a fine of 20,000 to 50,000 DH (2,000 to 5,000 USD)
In addition, the proposed law stipulated that any organisation found with shisha or hookah would be closed immediately by local authorities for up to 3 months.
Consumers are no exception, with the proposal that smokers be imprisoned from three months to three years and with a fine of up to 20,000 dh.
According to parliamentarians of the PJD, the bill intended to fill a legal vacuum regarding the sale of the hookah and to protect citizens, especially young people from the harmful effects of hookah on health.
|Shisha is a popular tourist experience|
But now, in a surprising backflip, the PJD parliamentary group has withdrawn the proposed law.
Members of the PJD are now expressing surprise the bill's sudden cancellation, yet, according to Al Massae newspaper, "strong" government pressure was behind the cancellation of the bill and the backing down of the caucus.
This bill had previously won a majority of a group who believed that "shisha contributes to crime, including prostitution of underage girls and is considered enemy # 1 of the PJD," the newspaper said.
|Mint tea and shisha|
And Meanwhile ...
Meanwhile in the northern city of Tangier, a regional governor from an opposition party took a very different attitude to smoking — but not of tobacco. Last week human rights organisations, local groups and international representatives met at an international conference on marijuana, organised by governor Ilyas El Omari of the centre-left Authenticity and Modernity Party (PAM). His region includes the Rif, a mountainous area famed for its cannabis production. Locally known as kif, marijuana has long been the main source of income for local farmers. The conference sought alternatives to government repression of the marijuana trade, which has decimated incomes in the impoverished region and targeted small consumers.
Representatives decried the failure of Morocco’s war on drugs, and encouraged the country to rethink its potential as an increasingly popular source of marijuana for the European market. While the sale and consumption of marijuana is still illegal in the country, analysts estimate the market is worth 10% of Morocco’s GDP, roughly $11.7 billion a year.