As African countries begin to tap into the profitable marijuana industry following the global rise in its use, the prison service in Zimbabwe is planning to venture into commercial production of the lucrative substance at one of its prisons.
The Zimbabwe Prisons and Correctional Services (ZPCS) has formally applied for a license from the government to be given the go-ahead to grow marijuana for medicinal purposes at its Chiredzi prison, Zimbabwean media, The Herald reports.
The move comes almost a year after Zimbabwe became the second African country after Lesotho to legalize growing the substance for medicinal and research purposes.
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“We do not intend to produce cannabis for prisoners, but one of the requirements of the Ministry of Health and Child Care is that for a mbanje [cannabis] growing licence to be issued, there has to be guarantees of security and availability of land and Chiredzi Prison is secure enough for the herb to be grown while land is also available,” Officer commanding the ZPCS in the southern Masvingo province Social Ndanga told The Herald.
He said his outfit is currently carrying out feasibility studies to determine if it is viable to commercially grow cannabis in Zimbabwe’s Lowveld region.
“Our target is to reduce our reliance on the national fiscus by generating our own revenue as an organisation.
“Cannabis production is just but one of several income-generating projects that we are considering in line with devolution.
“We are also identifying potential income-generating projects within our province so that we go for them instead of just folding our hands and waiting for government to do everything for us. What we are doing is out of the realisation that government has a lot of responsibilities, we need to think outside the box as Zimbabweans and device methods of revenue generation and remove pressure from the national purse.”
African governments have, over the years, been considering ways to regulate the use of marijuana due to its medicinal and economic benefits.
While some scientists maintain that marijuana has immense medicinal benefits, critics say it contains harmful chemicals that are 20 per cent more likely to cause cancer to the user than tobacco.
Some even argue that marijuana contains ingredients that can potentially affect the formation of sperm cells and eventually deform them, thus causing temporary sterility.
Yet, some African countries are beginning cash in on the booming industry following the global rise in the use of cannabis- roughly 16 per cent in the decade ending 2016, according to the recent United Nations Office on Drug and Crime (UNODC) drug report.
Following the extent of legalization observed in Europe and the Americas, in May 2018, Zimbabwe legalized growing marijuana for medicinal and research purposes.
Zimbabweans can now plant weed after the government announced that it would provide licenses for cultivation.
The Health and Child Care Minister, David Parirenyatwa, in a Government Gazette, licensed the planting of cannabis for medicinal and scientific purposes under Statutory Instrument 62 of 2018 (Dangerous Drugs – Production of Cannabis for Medicinal and Scientific Use Regulations).
Farmers must provide a proof of citizenship or residency to get the license.
“In case of an individual, proof of citizenship or proof of being ordinarily resident in Zimbabwe or proof of an exemption by the Minister (will be required),” the regulation said.
The license will last for five years and applicants are required to indicate information such as how they are going to keep their records, commencing date of selling or providing the final product, whether oil or fresh cannabis, as well as, the name of the person who will manage the activity of the licensed producer.