Zimbabwe has just legalized the use of cannabis for medical and scientific purposes. This makes it the second African nation to do so after Lesotho.
The Zimbabwean government has published licensing guidelines that allow for the cultivation of cannabis plants. Growing marijuana, more commonly known as “dagga” in southern Africa and “mbanje” locally, will be legal for medical use and for research purposes under the new regulations, which is formally called the Dangerous Drugs – Production of Cannabis for Medicinal and Scientific Use Regulations.
Zimbabwe’s health minister, Dr. David Parirenyatwa, stated in a government notice that businesses and individuals can apply for licenses to cultivate cannabis for the specified purposes. These five-year licenses will give growers the clearance to possess, sell, and transport fresh cannabis, dried cannabis products, and cannabis oil. The licenses should be renewed before they expire.
The government notice, which was published in the Harare Herald over the weekend, stated that those who are applying for this license will have to submit three copies of a detailed plan of their proposed cultivation site and expected yield, along with the appropriate fees.
Applicants must likewise indicate the maximum quantity of fresh cannabis, cannabis oil, or dried cannabis that they expect to produce, expressed as net weight in grams, within a given production period. They also have to indicate the maximum number of plants they will be selling.
Individual applicants have to be citizens or residents of Zimbabwe, and they should provide proof of such. For those who are not, they should have a waiver that was issued by the health minister. Individuals previously convicted of drug-related offenses are not allowed to apply.
Companies, meanwhile, must produce and submit a proof of incorporation in the country.
Under the newly released regulations, the government can deny a license application if it receives information from a competent authority, a peace officer, or the United Nations about the applicant having been engaged in the diversion of a controlled substance or in activities that lead to its illicit use or market.
Moreover, the ministry will not issue, renew, or amend a license if it finds that doing so would create a risk to safety, security, or public health.
Licensed producers are required to submit to the health ministry’s routine audits.
Zimbabwe officials had been debating the issue of legalizing medical cannabis as the government seeks new streams of revenue for the country’s agricultural economy. Zimbabwe is one of the biggest producers of tobacco in southern Africa, exporting most of its crop to China.
According to the UN’s 2017 World Drug Report, Africa is second in terms of the production and consumption of cannabis, next only to America.
In Zimbabwe, the use and production of cannabis had been entirely illegal even if the drug has long been widely used in traditional medicine for the treatment of health conditions like epilepsy, asthma, and mental illness. The production and possession of dagga was punishable by up to 12 years imprisonment.
Last year, then investment minister Obert Mpofu said that a Canadian firm had applied to the government for license to cultivate cannabis in planned special economic zones that are designed to attract foreign investors.
Needless to say, legalizing cannabis marks a significant shift from the largely conservative country’s traditionally tough position on weed. It also signals a progressive move forward for the African continent. It can be recalled that just last year, Lesotho decided to issue licenses for medical cannabis. Other African countries like Malawi and Ghana are also said to be exploring ways to legalize the drug.
The use of cannabis for recreational purposes remains prohibited in Zimbabwe.