Last year September, Lesotho became the first African country to legalize marijuana. At the time, we also mentioned that Ghana, Swaziland, Malawi and Zimbabwe were on the fast track to legalization of Marijuana - a Canadian firm had approached the Zimbabwean government for a license to produce marijuana in the country.
The Zimbabwean government put the speculations to rest last week when it published a licensing regime that will allow the legal cultivation of cannabis.
Growing mbanje or dagga, as marijuana, is commonly known in Zim, will now be legal for research and medical use under the new regulations, Statutory Instrument 62 of 2018, "Dangerous Drugs – Production of Cannabis for Medicinal and Scientific Use Regulations".
Five-year licences will also be issued to clear growers to possess, transport and sell fresh cannabis, cannabis oil, and dried product. A South African court ruling in March 2017 provides what is thought to be a viable defence against prosecution for private cultivation and use of dagga.
Of course, legalisation of marijuana cultivation raises the question of risk from illicit use of the substance. But clearly, the advantages outweigh the disadvantages. The US has already set a precedent for how valuable this market is. The legal weed market there generated $6.7 billion and has become one of the fastest growing industries since 29 American states legalized medicinal marijuana.
An estimated 38.2 million African adults (or 7.7% of the adult population in 2007) take the drug each year – far higher than the 3.8% of cannabis users among the world population aged 15 to 64. Ghana is currently the third largest consumer of marijuana in the world. And its market in Africa could potentially generate $79.8 billion a year and Africa is already one of the world's largest producers of marijuana and cannabis. That makes a case for its legalization across the continent, at least for medical and scientific purposes.