By Emily Ledger
The government of Zambia has announced plans to legalise the exports of Cannabis for both economic and medicinal purposes. Lawmakers hope that the move will provide a boost to the country’s economy.
A spokesperson for the government, Dora Siliya, confirmed on Monday that “the cabinet … gave its approval, in principle … for the cultivation, processing, and exportation of Cannabis for economic and medicinal purposes”. However, it remains unclear whether there are plans to implement legalisation of medical Cannabis within the country itself.
Zambia will become one of the first nations in Africa to implement any kind of legal Cannabis cultivation framework. However, the plans remain in the early stages. Ms. Siliya also revealed that a committee of Ministers will be working to produce guidelines for the sector. The Ministry of Health has been appointed to control the issuance of cultivation, processing, and export licenses.
The cultivation of Cannabis was technically made legal in Zambia under the ‘Narcotic Drugs and Psychotropic Substances Act Cap 96’. However, cultivation was only permitted with a license from the Health Minister – none of which have previously been granted.
Currently, South Africa is the only African country to have officially legalised the medical use of Cannabis. South Africa and the Kingdom of Lesotho are the only African nations to have legalised Cannabis for export.
Despite the illegality of Cannabis across the majority of the African continent, the plant is still widely cultivated. Prohibition Partners’ ‘African Cannabis Report‘ puts this down to declining demand for tobacco crops, and high unemployment rates.
Africa is estimated to produce around 38,000 tonnes of Cannabis every year.
The President of the government Green Party Opposition has been campaigning for policy change on Cannabis since 2013. Peter Sinkamba has reportedly claimed that a legalised export market could earn Zambia up to $36 billion a year.
Sinkimba told Reuters on Monday that Zambia Cannabis exports could:
“Depending on how properly this is done, this could just change the face of Zambia’s economy,. This could be a blessing or a curse, like diamonds and gold, depending on the policy direction.”