Zambia legalizes cannabis, kind of

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The government of Zambia has approved a proposal to legalize cannabis production in the southern African country, although the change will apply only to exports and for medical purposes only, not for adult use.

The bill was approved unanimously last week during a cabinet meeting at the State House.

Businesses hoping to get in on the green rush will need to bid on a commercial cultivation licence to produce and trade the crop. Approved bidders will have to pony up US$250,000 in annual licensing fees, a move intended to limit the number of licence-seekers.

The licences will be issued under the jurisdiction of the Ministry of Health and the responsibility for supervision of commercial cultivation will rest on the Zambia National Service.

Unfortunately for Zambians, though, they will not be permitted to legally consume the drug. Earlier this year, a court rejected a case in which a Zambian man sued the Ministry of Health for the right to cultivate a medical cannabis crop.

Further controversy is fuelled by allegations that the bill was created and approved so Health Minister Chitalu Chilufya and other politicians can legalize and facilitate their own cannabis cultivation businesses in Makeni and Chisamba.

The legal cannabis industry in Africa could potentially by worth more than US$7 billion if more countries on the continent’s major markets considered legalization, according to the 2019 African Cannabis Report, which touts itself as the first significant and detailed report on Africa’s legal cannabis industry.

Currently, cannabis is prohibited in most African countries. Notable exceptions include Lesotho, where cultivation for export is permitted; Zimbabwe, where medical cannabis became legal in 2018; and South Africa, where the drug has been decriminalized for adult use in private.

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