|The Cabinet of Zambia has recently unanimously approved the cultivation, processing, and exporting of medicinal cannabis to help boost the country’s economy / Photo by: Matthew Grollnek via Wikimedia Commons|
The Cabinet of Zambia has recently unanimously approved the cultivation, processing, and exporting of medicinal cannabis to help boost the country’s economy, reports Zambia news provider Lusaka Times.
While other countries lean more on the negative aspects of cannabis and the risk that it may become a gateway drug that leads to abuse, the government leaders of Zambia have recognized the medical benefits of the drug. Their motivation is also rooted in the growing debt burden and the large fiscal deficit that their country is facing. At the end of 2018, the country’s external debt grew from $8.74 billion to $10.5 billion and it has raised fears that the nation may be heading for a debt crisis.
Economic Benefits of Legalizing Weed
The 2019 Sustainability Analysis conducted by the International Monetary Fund and the World Bank indicates Zambia’s risk of external and overall debt distress is still “very high” because its public debt remains under the policies on an unsustainable path.
Zambian opposition Green Party President Peter Sinkamba, who has been advocating for the exportation of medicinal cannabis since 2013, explained via African business and financial platform Ventures Africa that exporting cannabis can potentially earn Zambia up to $36 billion yearly. The politician-entrepreneur further disclosed that there is a technical team comprising of several ministers to prepare the guidelines for the cultivation and exportation of medicinal drugs.
The country’s Chief Government spokesperson Dora Siliya also states that the Cabinet has already directed the Ministry of Health to coordinate with the issuance of licenses for the export, processing, and cultivation of cannabis but it should be for medicinal purposes only. Also, the Ministry of Health has been directed to provide leadership for this endeavor and that cannabis growth should be in line with the Dangerous Drugs Act, Chapter 95. This law details the drugs to which raw opium, coca leaves, cannabis, and poppy-straw apply and the restriction of importation and exportation of drugs.
|Lusaka Times added that the production of marijuana in the country will be restricted for medical purposes and exports only. Firms that want to trade cannabis in the country will also be charged with an annual license fee worth US$250,000 / Photo by: United States Fish and Wildlife Service via Wikimedia Commons|
Production of Marijuana in Zambia
Lusaka Times added that the production of marijuana in the country will be restricted for medical purposes and exports only. Firms that want to trade cannabis in the country will also be charged with an annual license fee worth US$250,000. Commercial licenses will then be issued to successful bidders so they can legally grow and trade cannabis to send to other countries. The growth of marijuana will be supervised by the Zambia National Service while the issuance of commercial licenses will be under the supervision of the Ministry of Health.
The unanimous approval of the Cabinet was also confirmed by high officials who wished not to be identified as they are not authorized to speak to the media as of the moment. During their cabinet meeting, the Ministry of Agriculture and the Ministry of Home Affairs have also attempted to take over the issuance of licenses. The source added that in the end, it was the Ministry of Health that won.
The Legal Cannabis Industry in Africa
If the legalization of marijuana will also be introduced in other major markets of the continent, the legal cannabis industry in Africa will be worth over $7.1 billion yearly by 2023. This is based on the research The African Cannabis Report.
African countries have been slow to accept the trend of medicinal cannabis seen in the Americas and Europe. The first country in Africa to offer legal licenses to grow marijuana is Lesotho and such a move signaled the shift to more liberal policies. Zimbabwe became the second country to legalize cannabis but only for medicinal and scientific use.
|If the legalization of marijuana will also be introduced in other major markets of the continent, the legal cannabis industry in Africa will be worth over $7.1 billion yearly by 2023. This is based on the research The African Cannabis Report / Photo by: Spc. Jason Nolte via Wikimedia Commons|
Global Cannabis Herb Production
Data from the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime, an office established by the UN to better address a comprehensive and coordinated response to the interrelated issues of abuse and illicit trafficking of drugs and for crime prevention, revealed the breakdown of global cannabis herb production in 2005 as follows: North America (23%), Caribbean and Central America (2%), South America (22%), Africa (25%), Middle East and South-West Asia (7%), Central Asia (5%), South-East Asia (5%), South Asia (5%), Europe (5%), and Oceana (1%).
The World Health Organization, however, warned the public of the acute and chronic health effects of cannabis use, such as impairment of cognitive development loss of control over cannabis use, airway injury and lung inflammation, and postnatal risk if used during pregnancy. Scientific online publication Our World in Data moreover detailed the share of population in Zambia with drug use disorders in the following years: 2000 (0.52%), 2003 (0.50%), 2005 (.50%), 2009 (0.50%), 2016 (0.51%), and 2017 (0.52%).
Countries with high drug dependency scores in 2017 include Libya (2.61%), United States (3.455), United Arab Emirates (2.92%), Australia (2.23%), New Zealand (2.05%), Afghanistan (1.41%), and Canada (2.28%).
Zambia’s motivation to legalize medicinal cannabis growth for economic benefits, such as increased tax revenues, investment opportunities, and job growth are all strong incentives. Yet, it is also important not to downplay the dark side of marijuana use and trafficking and the possibility that it may worsen the world’s drug problem. The question remains of whether the benefits outweigh the risks.