The Sunday News
From Leonard Ncube in Victoria Falls
THE Government is considering an application that has been made by a Canadian international company to produce cannabis for medical purposes, a move that will see the country legalising the production and use of marijuana in selected areas, a Cabinet Minister has said.
Macro-Economic Planning and Investment Promotion Minister Dr Obert Mpofu told captains of Industry at a Zimbabwe National Chamber of Commerce annual general meeting in Victoria Falls recently that a Canadian conglomerate has submitted an application to partner Government in the production of medical cannabis, also known as marijuana or mbanje, in one of the areas that has been earmarked for Special Economic Zones.
“We have received numerous inquiries from investors who want to participate in the SEZs and one of them is a big international company that wants to be involved in the production of cannabis. I also laughed and thought they were joking when I received the inquiry but they are serious. This seems to be big business,” said Dr Mpofu.
Contacted later to clarify, Dr Mpofu said Government was seriously considering the application adding that there was nothing wrong if the drug is used for beneficial purposes as some countries were already doing the same. Production and use of marijuana is illegal in Zimbabwe. Possessing of the drug can attract up to 12 years in jail.
“We have a variety of interests and we are considering all applications. This company is from Canada and it’s one of the biggest conglomerates in that country and they are producing cannabis for medical purposes under strict conditions. I don’t see anything wrong and I think if we legalise mbanje we will benefit medically because it is used for pain killers such as morphine. South Africa has done that,” he said.
In Canada the Government has issued at least 50 licences to a number of companies under the Access to Cannabis for Medical Purposes Regulations.
The companies are also authorised to produce, sell or provide dried and fresh marijuana, cannabis oils or starting material to eligible persons.
According to Health Canada, routine inspections of licenced producers of cannabis for medical purposes are regularly conducted to verify compliance with the regulations.
Compliance is normally achieved through a co-operative approach between the regulated party and Health Canada.
Medical cannabis, also termed medical marijuana is a drug prescribed by doctors for patients to reduce nausea, vomiting and improve appetite but its use has not been widely tested due to production restrictions and other governmental regulations.
Turning to the SEZs, Dr Mpofu said the concept will take into account the country’s competitive advantage as Government seeks to achieve agenda 2030 and 2063.
He said focus will be on those industries with a trickledown effect. Bulawayo, Victoria Falls and Harare have been identified as the first three pilots.
Dr Mpofu implored local authorities to be alive SEZs, provide incentives and land to investors both local and foreign. He said the newly appointed SEZs board had already started work with countrywide consultations planned.
Dr Mpofu also touched on corruption as he blamed the private sector for incentivising the vice.
“The private sector actually gives incentives to corruption. If there was no private sector there will be no corruption in the world. China has low levels of corruption because they use a command approach so we should all fight corruption,” he said.