Zambia’s Green Party, which advocates for legalising the cultivation of marijuana, is buoyed by swelling support globally.
Leader of the party Peter Sinkamba is currently pursuing a judicial review of an earlier court decision to deny him a license to cultivate marijuana for medicinal uses. This is encouraged by the latest revelations by industry experts that marijuana, also known as dagga and cannabis, could be Africa’s next big industry with annual earnings of as much as US$80 billion/year.
“If cannabis is grown and exported legally across the African continent‚ the gains could be huge — as much as US$80 billion per year. And some of the biggest benefits could go to Africa’s smallholder farmers‚ who would be able to command the market price‚ if it were legal,” according to Dope, a United States-based magazine that covers the development of the industry.
In an article posted on its website, Dope said though the response was largely negative on the continent, the tide was slowing turning in countries such as Morocco, Malawi and Swaziland, where the economic argument in favour of legal cultivation was winning.
“Lesotho’s recent decision to grant a medical marijuana license to Verve Dynamics — a Somerset West company that produces botanical extracts, is the first time in Africa that cannabis has been viewed as a source of revenue instead of a criminal activity‚ and it’s about time,” says Dope.
In additional to the economic benefits, industry proponents say marijuana is easy to grow, prevents soil erosion, is disease-resistant and far better for the environment as it requires less water than other crops.
The Green Party unsuccessfully campaigned on the economic benefits of the legal cultivation of marijuana in the Zambia’s presidential and general elections of 2016.
Undeterred by that, the party has recently been wooing disappointed maize farmers to galvanise the lobbying for legal cultivation of marijuana. Sinkamba has been on record saying: “This year’s poor prices for maize merely goes to show that maize is a poor man’s crop”.
However, government has rebuffed him, saying it would be irresponsible to legalise marijuana. Among other arguments, the government says marijuana contains more than 400 chemicals, including many toxic psychoactive elements whose long-term effects on human beings remained largely unstudied.