Zimbabwe legalises marijuana to improve its health sector and the economy

Zimbabwe has legalised the growing of marijuana, becoming the second African country to do so after Lesotho. In a legal notice released by the government, Zimbabweans can now apply for licences to grow cannabis for medical and research purposes.

Until Saturday, it was illegal to grow, possess or use cannabis in Zimbabwe and people found guilty were to face a 12-year jail term. Deliberations on legalizing the drug have been on-going for months and the East African country now hopes to maximise cannabis and turn it into a source of income to boost the economy.

Knowing how the cannabis plant, which is intended for medical use, has been abused worldwide, with people using it for its mental and physical effects—to get the high or stoned feeling, a general change in perception, euphoria, and an increase in appetite—the Zimbabwean government has decided to regulate its use in the country.

The new regulations as published by Health Minister David Parirenyatwa permits the cultivation of marijuana, known locally as mbanje, to only licenced individuals. These licences have a 5-year duration and can be renewed.

To procure this licence, individuals and companies need to apply and details of site the plant were the plant will grow, the quantity to be produced and the production period should be contained in the application letter.

An application does not guarantee a licence. If an applicant was involved in the diversion of a controlled substance or precursor to an illicit market or use, and the case got to the notice of a peace officer, a competent authority or the United Nations, the request for licence can be denied.

Also, “The Minister may not oblige if the issuance, renewal or amendment of the licence is likely to create a risk to public health, safety or security.” The published document noted.

The five-year renewable licences will allow growers to possess, transport and sell fresh and dried cannabis as well as cannabis oil.

Marijuana is the most commonly used illegal drug in the world. In 2013, between 128 and 232 million people used cannabis (2.7% to 4.9% of the global population between the ages of 15 and 65).