The production of cannabis for medicinal or scientific purposes was legalised in Zimbabwe last year by virtue of Statutory Instrument 62 of 2018 Dangerous Drugs (Production of Cannabis for Medicinal and Scientific Use) Regulations, 2018 (“the Cannabis Regulations”).
Prior to the promulgation of the Cannabis Regulations, the production and use of cannabis was illegal and the possession of the substance carried a sentence of up to 12 years in prison. The government of Zimbabwe in May 2019 approved Zimbabwe’s first cannabis farm and production plant at the Zimbabwe Prisons and Correctional Services’ Buffalo Range prison in Chiredzi.
The medicinal cannabis market is emerging as a potential source of revenue for Zimbabwe. A recent study by Grand View Research, an India and United States based market research and consulting company, indicated that the global legal cannabis market size was estimated at USD 13.8 billion in 2018. The cannabis market is projected to expand at a compound annual growth rate of 23.9% by 2025. Zimbabwe has realised the substantial potential economic benefits of commercial cannabis and follows in the footsteps of Lesotho, which was the first African country to legalise cannabis production in 2017.
Legal requirements to produce cannabis
The Cannabis Regulations provide guidance to any individuals or companies that wish to produce cannabis for medicinal and scientific use in Zimbabwe. Any individual or company that intends to produce cannabis for medicinal and scientific use is required to obtain a producer’s license from the Minister of Health and Childcare.
The applicant is required to submit a form as prescribed by Section 5(1) of the Cannabis Regulations along with the prescribed statutory fee of USD 50 000, and copies of the documents specified under PART II of the Cannabis Regulations. The Cannabis Regulations also regulate the general conditions for production including packaging, labeling and shipping. The license to produce cannabis for medicinal and scientific use is valid for renewable periods of 5 years.
Current developments in the law
Statutory instrument 208 of 2019, Criminal Law Codification (Persons who may lawfully possess, deal in or use industrial Hemp) Regulations, 2019 regulates the growing, processing and supply of industrial hemp. As a result, only prescribed persons may acquire, possess supply, cultivate industrial hemp on farms approved by the Minister of Lands, Agriculture, Water, Climate and Rural Resettlement. This development in the law clarifies the conflict between the Cannabis Regulations and the Criminal code, which criminalised the possession of cannabis. Although the Cannabis Regulations rendered it legal to produce the drug, the Criminal code still prohibited the cultivation, production and possession of cannabis, which resulted in a conflict between the two laws. Statutory Instrument 208 of 2019 therefore removes this discrepancy, allowing those prescribed persons, who have been authorised by the Minister, to produce cannabis for medicinal and scientific purposes without any criminal implications.