The decision by Zimbabwe to legalize weed could jump-start the African economy

Zimbabwe has legalized cannabis for the medical and scientific markets in a move that could snowball throughout Africa, bringing with it much needed financing for impoverished countries

Despite the fact that Africa is the world’s second-largest consumer of marijuana and produces some of the best strains available globally, governments have frowned on legalization although, traditionally, weed has been widely used on the continent for untold decades.

Zimbabwe’s Minister of Health, Dr David Parirenyatwa, rang the bells of change with the announcement that marijuana can now be grown, transported and sold to the medical and scientific markets with government-issued licenses that will be valid for five years. However, recreational use remains illegal.

Adding impetus to the ground-breaking decision was the announcement last year by the country’s former Investment Minister, Obert Mpofu, about negotiations with the Canadian government to grow marijuana in Zimbabwe. This would form part of a program to attract foreign investment to specified economic zones in Zimbabwe. The negotiations were also indicative of Canada’s decision to consider decriminalizing weed, a move expected to get the green light by mid-2018.

In terms of the decision by Zimbabwe to decriminalize cannabis for the medical and scientific sectors, the Government has issued a number of rules and regulations that will open the door to a new wave of industry by both companies and individuals. These include:

  • Detailed plans of proposed production sites and expected yields must be submitted by applicants
  • Individuals seeking licenses must be citizens of the country or have proof of residence or receive a ministerial waiver of that condition
  • Anyone with a previous conviction for drug offences will be excluded
  • Proof of incorporation in Zimbabwe must be provided by companies applying for licenses
  • The Health Ministry will conduct routine audits on all marijuana license-holders

Further conditions are that applicants must stipulate the maximum quantities (in grams) of envisaged production, including fresh, dried, and cannabis oils. They also have to stipulate the period of production and the number of marijuana plants they will have available for sale. Separate licenses are needed to deliver or transport the weed to more than one site, as well as to possess, produce, provide or ship the product.

Meanwhile, elsewhere in Africa there are movements afoot to legalize marijuana. In fact, Lesotho, a tiny African country, issued a license for medical marijuana in 2017, while Ghana and Malawi are apparently also considering legalization.

Also in 2017, private use of marijuana was declared legal by a South African court, but that move was short-lived when the government appealed the ruling to the Constitutional Court. Yet, South Africa is a country inhabited by hundreds of thousands of tribal healers and their followers who have used “dagga”, as marijuana is known in that country, for an untold number of years to treat ailments such as ridding children wracked with seizures from “evil spirits” (more likely, epileptic episodes), mental illnesses and stimulating hair growth. It is also a well-known fact that thousands of South Africans use weed for recreational purposes, although illegal in that country. It is, after all, the home of the well-known Durban Poison strain.

Some little-known facts

  • For many years Zimbabwe has been one of Africa’s leading tobacco producers, with the bulk of its crop exported to China. Adding marijuana to its stable will provide the country, which for many years has been torn apart by political and often violent unrest, with much-needed additional finance.
  • As far as marijuana consumption and production is concerned, Africa is second only to the Americas. This was confirmed in last year’s United Nations World Drug Report.
  • It has also been officially recorded that a legalized marijuana industry in Africa could generate revenue of close to $80 billion annually – money that could be used to improve many social and economic disparities.
  • Malawi is now set to legalize hemp – a product that is less superior to marijuana – after two years of heated debate.


There can be little doubt that marijuana could save African countries floundering economically, and the move by Zimbabwe to legalize weed for the medical and scientific sectors could be just the impetus needed to copy-cat American states that will generate billions of dollars for much-needed social and economic reform. Zimbabwe’s lead has not gone unnoticed by neighboring countries such as Ghana and Malawi, and the new-age of social acceptance of the substance could soon envelop the African continent.

Professor Alex Dodoo who is the acting head of Ghana’s Standards Authority points out that while many countries now grow marijuana legally in greenhouses, in Africa dagga is grown “in the bush” but the time had now arrived to begin openly discussing legalization. He reminds that weed provides a major source of revenue and argues that African marijuana is recognized as among the best in the world and, at the very least, should be cultivated and exported to America, Canada, Uruguay and other legal outlets.

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