Zambia could be on its path to start cultivation of marijuana for medicinal purposes following revelation by the government that the country’s laws allow this.
Minister of Home Affairs Stephen Kampyongo said cultivation of marijuana for medicinal purpose was allowed but those intending to venture into the business must obtain a license from the Ministry of Health. In a ministerial statement in parliament following increased calls on the government to legalize marijuana cultivation for medicinal purposes, the minister said it was still an offense for anyone to cultivate marijuana, even for medicinal purposes, without a license.
Calls on authorities in Zambia to legalize the cultivation of marijuana for medicinal purposes resurfaced recently when a top doctor called on them to seriously consider the idea. “How soon can we have an open and objective evaluation of the process of getting our home-grown marijuana to the market? Medicinal marijuana works,” Aaron Mujajati, president of the Zambia Medical Association, said on his Facebook page. And commenting on the minister’s announcement that the country has sufficient laws to allow for such cultivation, the doctor said this was a step in the right direction. “We are happy that this is legal and it is now incumbent upon us to demonstrate to government on what benefits this can have to the country,” he told Xinhua in an interview. He however noted that the government would need to come up with regulations and guidelines to properly guide those who would want to venture into the business.
The government also will have to come up with proper control measures to ensure that there is no illegal activity on the growing of marijuana and to avoid abuse. “While we welcome the announcement, we feel that more still needed to be done. As you know, marijuana is still a prohibited drug in the country. So we would like the government to come up with clear-cut measures going forward,” he said. According to him, the issue of standards and what form the drug will be administered need to be established.
According to medical experts, marijuana has medicinal values that could go a long way in improving health care delivery in the country. Marijuana can be used in relieving pain, especially in cancer patients, improve poor appetite and weight loss caused by chronic illness. It is also known to be effective in people with epilepsy. Cultivation and possession of marijuana is illegal in Zambia and many people have landed themselves in jail. Last year, Zambia seized 59 tons of cannabis from various offenders across the country, according to the country’s Drug Enforcement Commission (DEC). However the latest calls have ignited debates in the southern African nation on the need to consider the economic and medicinal benefits of marijuana, especially now that the country is calling for the diversification of the economy to wean off copper dependence.
Bwalya Nondo, spokesperson of the opposition National Restoration Party (NAREP), said the legalization of marijuana for medicinal purposes was long overdue. The party, he said, had critically looked into the issue and found out that the benefits of legalizing marijuana for medicinal purposes far outweigh the disadvantages of legalizing it. But other people believe that caution is needed as the country prepares to venture into cultivation of marijuana for medicinal purposes. While acknowledging that cultivation of marijuana for medicinal purposes was good for the country, local people believe that serious studies and analysis needed to be undertaken. “Firstly as Zambia are we ready for this at this point? History has taught us that despite having good laws to control use of alcohol or drugs, this has not been reinforced. We have failed with alcohol so what assurance will we have that we will succeed with marijuana,” Nita Besa Sichamba said. Others believe that instead of opening up the cultivation of marijuana for medicinal purposes, its cultivation should be restricted to state-run agencies for proper control and monitoring as opening it up could lead to abuse and illegal activities.
So far, the campaign for the legalization of marijuana has been the sole role of an opposition political party that has clearly stated in its policies that it will legalize the cultivation of marijuana if it formed government.Peter Sinkamba, president of the Green Party, who has so far stood in two presidential elections, believes that marijuana has both commercial and medicinal benefits for the country if properly cultivated in controlled state-run farms. According to him, marijuana could earn the country 36 billion U.S. dollars annually, especially that the country was promoting the diversification of the economy.