The global market for legal marijuana is expected to grow to US$146.4 billion by the year 2025. That’s a lot of money. Thanks to our government Zimbabwe can take part in the market after growing marijuana was legalized. Following in the footsteps of countries such as the USA, Canada, Germany, Italy, Israel and Uruguay who also legalized the farming of the plant. While it is widely known for its psychotropic effects, the marijuana plant has many other uses. Hemp is the term for cannabis grown for industrial use and has little psychotropic effect, due to low THC levels.
The government legalized the farming of cannabis for medicinal and scientific purposes. The regulation covers the processing including cannabis oil. However, licensing of farmers was suspended in May with then Deputy Finance Minister Terrence Mukupe citing the need to do a feasibility study first. None the less we are going to look at the uses of cannabis and its by products and how we can learn from these applications as a country.
Uses of cannabis
Hemp clothing is not new to the world and there’s been a resurgence in its popularity.
Food and beverages
Hemp seeds can be processed to produce food such as hemp meal or to make beverages, the seeds are high in protein and provide a variety of uses which include baking.
Due to its high fiber content hemp makes a good replacement for wood in insulation and has even been used to make a lighter but stronger version of concrete; hempcrete. Hemp fiber is also used to make ropes.
Paper and plastic
The use of hemp in making paper is well documented in history, while current technology makes it expensive to produce at a commercial scale it is a niche market. Marijuana also can be used to make plastic. Paper and plastic made from cannabis biodegrade quickly and are more desirable for recycling purposes.
The marijuana plant is quite ubiquitous. Biodiesel made from hemp seeds and stalks, hempoline, is another application of the plant and its by-products. There is little commercial use of it at present time.
The medicinal uses of marijuana are well documented as it has been used in the treatment of many ailments. It has therapeutic applications in dealing with anxiety, pain, anorexia and nausea. This is currently a very large active market in the world. The US medical marijuana market was estimated at US$7 billion in 2017.
The list of cosmetics made with marijuana keeps growing. Make-up, bath products, hair products and more are being made using cannabis oil. This is an exponential growth market at present and presents the greatest opportunity for growth. The products are being expanded to new markets annually.
As we can see there is a variety of uses for the marijuana plant. While some of these are in their early stages, this may be the best time to take advantage of them. Of course farming marijuana itself is lucrative. The opportunity to supply it as a raw material is not the only one out there. So much should be done to look at ways of processing.
Our regulation covers the processing of marijuana and variety of other issues concerned with it. Going as far along the value chain as possible is critical to just how much benefit we can derive from the legalising of marijuana farming. Technology may also be used as key in this effort. With a strong marketing focus in a somewhat fledgling market there are opportunities to create a Zimbabwe brand that garners decent market share. Are you interested in taking up opportunities in cannabis farming or processing?