Last year’s legalisation of cannabis production came as a joke to some. How could an illicit drug credited with destroying the lives of many people be made legal? This did not deter government and they are going ahead with the registration of cannabis investors, 37 of them so far. For those who care to know, cannabis has some benefits, some of which are medicinal. In this light, it can be big business if done right. Countries who have walked the same road can attest to that.
According to state owned newspaper The Herald, government has already approved and are in the process of registering 37 investors out of the over 200 who expressed interest in investing in our cannabis industry. “In the last few months, more than 200 local and foreign companies have shown interest in venturing into medicinal cannabis production. Cabinet has approved about 37 of them and they will be issued with licences. For now, we are in the process of registering them,” Deputy Minister of Agriculture, Water, Climate and Rural Resettlement Vangelis Haritatos was quoted as saying. The Deputy Minister revealed that globally, cannabis business is worth about $24 billion annually although risks of abuse still lurk.
Benefits of cannabis
It is true and unfortunate that cannabis abuse has ruined the well being of a lot of people worldwide. However, more and more governments have realised that the advantages of legalising it far outweigh these adverse impacts. Strong evidence exists that cannabis aids treatment of nausea and vomiting associated with chemotherapy in cancer patients, neuropathic pain, spasticity in multiple sclerosis as well as spinal cord injury. Apart from medicinal uses, some varieties of cannabis can be used in textile production, biofuels and biodegradable plastics. Moreover, legalising cannabis means governments can increase their revenues through taxes which will be levied on registered companies. More importantly, cannabis can be exported thereby generating substantial amounts of foreign currency. It is believed that Sub Saharan Africa has good growing climates for cannabis. This, coupled with cheaper labour costs means that consumer countries in the West may find it favourable to import from us. The businesses themselves will also create a lot of employment for the millions who remain unemployed in Zimbabwe and other countries. The benefits are numerous.
All over the world, many countries have legalised medicinal cannabis use. These include most parts of the US, Germany, Netherlands and Italy. In Spain, cannabis can be cultivated and used in private places. Uruguay legalised recreational cannabis use in 2013 and people are allowed to grow six plants at their residences. Recreational use is also legalised in Jamaica, Brazil, Colombia and Australia among others. Closer to home, South Africa is making great strides although formal trade in cannabis has not yet started. Laws on recreational use of cannabis have loosened as people are allowed to grow and use it but only in private. In fact, before legal sale of cannabis is licensed, the industry is already making progress. A cannabis expo in Pretoria in December 2018 was over-subscribed. It was the first of its kind in Africa. Similar expos are slated for March and April this year. It is impressive that sales of hydroponics equipment have risen sharply. This equipment is believed to be cleaner and easier in growing cannabis. Although the equipment can be used for tomatoes and other vegetables as well, the sudden increase in sales can be attributed to a blooming cannabis industry. Lesotho has already issued permits to investors to grow and export cannabis. Malawi is following suit. Clearly, the industry is taking shape.
Zimbabwe is certainly on the right track this time around. In fact, more should be done, and with greater speed. Rich pickings are a certainty if we organise ourselves strategically.