Zimbabwe becomes second African country to legalize medical marijuana

Posted on May 2nd, 2018 by Global Ganja Report and tagged , , , , , , , .

AfricaZimbabwe, seemingly an unlikely candidate, has just become the second African nation to legalize medical marijuana. The only other African country to have done so is the tiny landlocked mountain kingdom of Lesotho—where cannabis has long been tolerated as an economic mainstay. Given that Zimbabwe is traditionally one of Africa's more closed societies, this is a hopeful sign—both that things are loosening up there after the recent fall of its long-ruling strongman, and for an eventual daylighting of the dagga economy throughout the continent.

The southern African nation of Zimbabwe has legalized marijuana for medical and scientific use. The official notice issued April 27 by the government stated that individuals and businesses will be allowed to apply for licenses to cultivate cannabis for these purposes.

The notice published by the Health Ministry in the national daily Harare Herald made clear that this is to be a tightly controlled program. Applicants for the licenses must submit detailed plans of their proposed production site and yield. Those applying for licenses must be Zimbabwe citizens or residents, or must also seek a waiver issued by the health minister. Those previously convicted of drug offences are to be barred from applying.

In what is officially dubbed the "Production of Cannabis for Medicinal and Scientific Use Regulations," Zimbabwe’s health minister, Dr David Parirenyatwa, said license will also be denied if it is seen as "likely to create a risk to public health, safety or security, including the risk of cannabis being diverted to an illicit market use." Cultivation of cannabis—known regionally as mbanje or dagga—is currently punishable by up to 12 years in prison.

The fact that Zimbabwe has traditionally been a closed society makes this development even more meaningful. First, it points to growing space for freedom following the ouster of the country's longtime strongman Robert Mugabe in November, with new President Emmerson Mnangagwa pledging to "re-engage with the world"—although in an indication of how things are still done in Zimbabwe, the Production of Cannabis regulation seems to have been unilaterally issued by the executive, not voted up by the country's legislature, the House of Assembly.

It also seems a positive sign for the daylighting of the dagga economy across Africa.

Despite harsh prohibition there is already a thriving dagga economy throughout southern Africa—and some fractures in the prohibitionist edifice.

Last year, the independent mountain kingdom of Lesotho, which is bordered on all sides by South Africa, issued the first cannabis cultivation license ever on the African continent. The license, granted in September, went to South African firm Verve Dynamics. Cannabis is already Lesotho's primary cash-crop—and the country's economic mainstay. Since the job market in neighboring South Africa contracted some 10 years ago, authorities in Lesotho have been using cannabis as a kind of economic safety valve. The law simply goes unenforced, under what some have called a "de facto decriminalization."

South Africa itself, the region's largest economy by far, also now has a vigorous legalization movement, demanding cannabis be allowed as a solution for the country's struggling farmers, who have been hit hard by globalization.

March 2017 saw a big step forward for dagga in South Africa, when a court in Cape Town ruled that the country's cannabis prohibition law is "unconstitutional," asserting that adults have the right to use, grow or possess in the privacy of their homes. The decision is not as meaningful as it superficially seems, as it only permits the law's unconstitutionality to be used a defense—so arrests can techncially continue. The court gave South Africa's government two years to pass a new marijuana law that is up to constitutional muster.

The first year has now passed, and the moves by Zimbabwe and Lesotho put greater pressure on South Africa to make provisions for legal cultivation.

Cross-post to Cannabis Now



South Africa decriminalizes

Global Ganja Report's picture South Africa's Constitutional Court ruled Sept. 18 that cannabis—colloquially known in the country as "dagga"—is legal for personal use and cultivation in private spaces. However, law enforcement will be allowed discretion to decide the quantities that define "personal use." (Cannabis Now)
Comment by Global Ganja Report on Sep 18th, 2018 at 4:55 pm

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