While the cannabis legalization movement has certainly strengthened its grip around North America over the last few years, the green wave is proving to be more of a global phenomenon than anything else. In Africa, countries such as South Africa and Ghana have pushed for decriminalization of the plant. Now, Zimbabwe is looking to jumpstart their economy by allowing marijuana cultivation on their mountainous lands.
The local government is considering legalizing the cultivation of cannabis (known in the region as “mbanje”) to entice investors and international growers into stimulating the local economy. Zimbabwe is currently setting up various Special Economic Zones (SEZs) across the country, and these select zones will include exemption of labor law provisions and black economic empowerment rules, ultimately offering business incentives to international investors.
According to Investment Promotion Minister Obert Mpofu, one undisclosed medical cannabis company from Canada has already applied for a permit to grow marijuana. If approved, both the production and use of pot would be legal in select areas. Although the government’s reasons to permit cultivation seems primarily motivated by business opportunities, the decision could be a crucial step for local users.
Currently, the production and use of mbanje in Zimbabwe is strictly illegal, carrying a sentence of up to 12 years in jail. But as the cannabis movement spreads both globally and throughout Africa, Dr. Mpofu sees the medical and economic benefits that other countries have received through legalization.
“This company is from Canada and it’s one of the biggest conglomerates in that country and they are producing cannabis for medical purposes under strict conditions. I don’t see anything wrong and I think if we legalize mbanje we will benefit medically because it is used for pain killers such as morphine,” Mpofu said.
Regardless of the motives for Zimbabwe’s newfound interest in cannabis, cultivation stands to boost the local economy and move towards decriminalization across the country. Canada’s budding cannabis industry has taken root across the world, bringing its business to Jamaica and perhaps to Africa in the near future.