Will Zimbabwe Legalize Weed?
For anyone paying attention, it seems legalizing cannabis/marijuana/weed’s the new thing. The US’s in talks about it, South Africa’s considering it and now Zimbabwe just may be legalizing it — the country’s considering legalizing weed production for medical purposes and in an attempt to attract investors…not just any type of investor but those keen on growing the plant for commercial purposes.
The Zimbabwean government says it’s received several inquiries from investors about weed production within the country, and that one of these inquiries is from a major Canadian firm which has even formally applied to the government for a permit to produce the drug, known locally as mbanje, in one of the country’s Special Economic Zones (SEZs). Though these SEZs are in the process of being set up, initially in Harare, Bulawayo and Victoria Falls, once they’re functional, they’ll provide investors with incentives, including exemption from some labour law provisions, among other perks.
Initially thinking the inquiries were a joke, the Zimbabwean government has since realized that weed production, and its use, is big business so now the country’s taking these interested parties seriously by considering legalizing its production, and is of the opinion that its citizens will also benefit medically since mbanje’s often used as a pain killer.
If Zimbabwe really does legalize weed, it’ll be a big step for the country because its laws have historically called for jail time for anyone caught cultivating weed or having the substance in their possession. For example, in 2015, a man found by police to be growing small quantities of marijuana at home, in order to treat a rare bone disease, was jailed for 12months. In some cases, a person could receive a sentence of up to 12 years.
So how have Zimbabweans reacted to this news? With shock and surprise.
Shock that the government would consider legalizing weed given its historical conservative stance on the use and cultivation of the plant, and surprise that the government would consider legalizing weed given its historical conservative stance on the use and cultivation of the plant.
Then there’s the perspective that the government is only considering this because it was approached by FOREIGN investors; idea being that if the inquiries were made by local investors, the government may have turned a deaf ear. Side note – for those unfamiliar, there’s the perception (not without some basis) that Africans are particularly deferential, many times overly so, to foreigners and that we regard and treat foreigners a lot better than we do our own.
Another view’s that most people use weed — even police officers — so legalizing it puts an end to the pretense.
Another’s that somebody could be out to sell the nation to the highest bidder because if mbanje’s so beneficial in terms of its healing power, why would the government wait for foreigners to raise the issue? (Answer – see initial paragraph above).
Even another perspective – the government’s potential to make money and lots of it. Thought here’s that the government’s interest in legalizing weed is not purely altruistic — for medical purposes — but self-serving — additional revenue stream for wasteful government spending and its placement of foreign currency above the health of its citizens.
Yet another view’s that even under controlled production, the government may find it difficult to restrict the use of the plant to just medicinal purposes. But the counter-argument by the government’s that the plant will be dispensed under strict conditions and administered by professionally trained and licensed personnel, similar to a patient using a prescription from a doctor. Really?
Traditional healers love the idea though — of legalizing weed — because weed’s been used locally for decades with no problems, so even if the government wasn’t considering this idea, they’d have proposed it.
What do you think of Zimbabwe’s move?