HEALTH and Child Care minister Constantino Chiwenga yesterday urged Zimbabweans to embrace the legal use of cannabis saying the herbal plant was a “God-given gift” for the country.’
The legalisation of cannabis in 2018 sparked controversy owing to the negative perceptions associated with the herb.
Addressing delegates at the cannabis roundtable discussion in Harare yesterday, Chiwenga, in a speech read by his deputy John Mangwiro, said there was need to tweak laws to allow legal consumption and exportation of cannabis.
“This is a Zimbabwean thing, let’s go for it. Let us not say anyone is wrong or not; I encourage you to do research and studies here before you export,” Chiwenga said.
“Like the Medical Association of Zimbabwe said, we need to tweak the laws that (are) favourable for our consumption and exportation.
“While the government encourages the legal use of medicinal hemp (cannabis), any criminal diversion of the herb will not go unpunished. There is a need to work along protocol lines to ensure the legality of practice.”
The roundtable discussion was held under the theme Unlocking the challenges and potential of cannabis as an alternative medicine.
Zimbabwe legalised the growing of the herb in 2018, but only for medical purposes.
Possession and smoking of cannabis still attracts a jail sentence.
“Whatever good or bad about our cannabis must be dealt with by us then we publish it to the general public and internationally,” Chiwenga said.
“It is a common cause that the advanced economies have made significant progress in research, production and marketing of products from cannabis. Resultantly, it is incumbent on us not to be left behind if there are genuine socio-economic and environmental benefits that accrue from this effort.”
SAPPS Pharmaceuticals managing director Kudzai Hove said there was need for value addition to ensure the country benefited from the production of cannabis.
“It does not make sense that our farmers farm the herb but we cannot benefit from it as it is exported and imported back at a higher price tag,” Hove said.
In countries such as Australia, Puerto Rico, Poland, Czech Republic, Canada, Croatia and Macedonia, the production of cannabis is legal for medicinal purposes. In other nations such as United Arab Emirates, Egypt, Indonesia, Malaysia and the Philippines, those caught trafficking or selling marijuana, even in small quantities, can be sentenced to death.