Zimbabwe is planning on extending its earnings from the agricultural sector, by expanding from tobacco and cotton to hemp, an industrial cannabis strain with numerous economic uses and benefits.
In fact, this is not the first time that Zim has made a move in the cannabis industry. They allowed investors to apply for licences to cultivate marijuana for medicinal purposes, a couple of years ago.
Catalyst for Change
The Zimbabwean government has been eager to follow in the footsteps of South Africa, in decriminalising cannabis. Officials of the Zimbabwean Government understand the potential of foreign currency earnings through industrial hemp and medical cannabis.
This comes as the consultancy firm, Prohibition Partners believe that, “Africa’s legal cannabis industry could generate more than $US 7.1 billion annually by 2023 if a number of the continent’s major markets open up and mirror the trend of legalisation” as seen in the U.S., Canada and parts of Europe.
More importantly, the hemp strain that Zimbabwe has now opened up to is seen as simply regulated and promotable as it is not toxic compared to other strains of marijuana.
“With hemp, it’s not as toxic as cannabis. The minister of justice has been directed to say ‘go and make amendments to the criminal code in our system so that people who will grow hemp don’t have to be criminalized,” July Moyo, a Zimbabwean cabinet minister standing in for Industry Minister Mangaliso Ndlovu said after a cabinet meeting in early August.
Too Much Potential to Ignore
The Government hopes that “industrial hemp will widen the country’s industrial and export base” especially in light of plummeting tobacco prices and earnings so far this year. Drought conditions have wrecked their agricultural sector and the tobacco sub-sector has taken the hardest knock.
According to Prohibition Partners, they believe that around 38 000 tonnes of illegal cannabis is cultivated throughout Africa annually.
Faith in industrial hemp as well as steps to legalise production “demonstrates the clear potential for an economic boom for African countries that actively seek to legalise and regulate their cannabis markets”.
Unlike tobacco, which is facing an international ban, hemp and medicinal cannabis are experiencing global embracement thanks to their usefulness in medicine and industrial productivity for textiles, paper and more.
Ivory Medical has already given the go-ahead for the cultivation of medicinal cannabis at a Zimbabwean prison facility, through a partnership involving the Ministry of Health and financially backed by NSK Holdings, international investors, and a Portuguese technical farming support firm, Symtomax.
Lesotho became the first African country to legalize marijuana farming in 2017. The call to view marijuana as a source of revenue for the country rather than petty crime symbolises a shift from an illegal export to a regulated industry. Is it time for the rest to follow suit?