Monday, May 20, 2024

Legalisation of Marijuana Must Benefit Zambians, and Zambians First


Marijuana plant
Marijuana plant
By: Anthony Bwalya – UPND Member
While the global copper market is worth just above $260 billion, with Zambia claiming just slightly above 4% of the global market, with net revenues of only round $500 – $700 million per annum ( I stand to be corrected). The global cannabis market, on the other hand, is currently estimated to be worth $340 billion and just keeps on growing.
It must be noted that the level of technical expertise and intensity of capital associated with the cannabis supply chain, from growing, marketing to selling; is relatively friendly and nowhere near as laborious as the mining industry, perhaps save for a few stringent global regulatory requirements.
But what this means is that Zambia and Zambians can own the Cannabis industry 100% and internalize 100% of all forex revenues arising from this business. Capturing even a paltry 1% of the global Cannabis market could potentially generate a staggering $3.4 billion per annum for the country. But again if we are not careful, this amount of money could very easily end up in the hands and pockets of cartels who I imagine are well poised to pounce on this multi billion honeypot.
Our biggest problem at the moment is the $250,000 lisence fee requirement. This is in effect an invitation to big money foreign and local cartels to not only use Zambia as a platform to clean up their dirty money, but also an opportunity for them to make an easy killing at the expense of Zambians. If this happens, we would have laid the perfect breeding ground for an underground Cannabis market which will undoubtedly be punctuated by gun violence as participants look to claim a share of what they believe is an opportunity systematically denied them.
The sensible way to go about this program is to initially place the cultivation, marketing and selling of Cannabis in the hands of a disciplined state institution such as the Zambia National Service (ZNS). Let these be assisted and equipped with all the initially required expertise  and tools and let them get the show started. In the process, they will create employment for hundreds of youths and other professionals. But ZNS will also be crucial to provide the right kind of discipline in so far as preventing the wanton theft and abuse of the product from their production areas.
In the meantime, the government should look to building and strengthening a functional framework that ensures that the growing, marketing and export of Cannabis is done in an orderly and beneficial manner to the country and it’s people; as well as paving the way for the gradual participation of small scale farmers and other private sector players into the industry. As far as the participation of small scale farmers and local private sector is concerned, the lisence fee must be enabling enough to ensure that locals are not excluded from actively and fully participating in building their own economy. The participation of foreign entrants must be heavily regulated and restricted to working partnerships with locals to avoid the unnecessary externalization of forex revenue.
At the end of the day, this must be an enterprise fully owned by Zambians.
Politicians must resist the temptation of hijacking this enterprise away from the people. We have already seen this with Mukula and other mineral resources where corrupt government officials have been the principal beneficiaries while the people suffer.
We cannot and we will not accept this sort of scenario with Cannabis.
The legalization of Marijuana in Zambia could well be the making or breaking of us.


  1. Commercial exploitation of the resource requires high levels of technology and capital investments. The type of farming needed for medical cannabis must be of high quality to satisfy world market needs. At the same time, partners to open international markets must be involved from start. Consequently, taking cannabis exports as panacea for failure to create jobs and other quality export products must be rejected. Yes, cannabis would generate jobs and Forex. However, there is need to rely of professionalism, modern technology and huge capital investments.

    • This is the start of another Colombia in making. While the commercial merits are good but Zambia will regret the day this decision was taken. A country with no laws can not manage this and more with a corrupt President

    • A Christian nation growing cannabis? My foot. I don’t care how much it’ll bring in, bane those who claim to be Christians shouldn’t at all be planning like this at all.

    • My experience with the effects of cannabis scare me. Long term conditions will make victims addicted. I once arrested a Jamaican with cannabis and while in cells saw him start rotting beginning with his fingers and was forced to give him back the cannabis and it was when the fingers stopped rotting.

  2. “The participation of foreign entrants must be heavily regulated and restricted to working partnerships with locals to avoid unnecessary extenalisation of forex revenue.”

    Excellent observation.That’s my concern as well.We don’t want forex revenue from our marijuana to build smart cities elsewhere while our Lusaka and many other cities/towns remain an eyesore.The cultivation must be localised.Here,I will agree with President Trump for the first time with his protectionist slogan of ‘America first’…..On the cultivation and processing of marijuana, its ‘ Zambians first!’
    In this way dollar earnings by Zambians will be retained, invested/reinvested and this will sustain the strength of our volatile Kwacha.
    Secondly, Zambians will be able to raise much needed capital to invest…

    • …much needed capital to invest and/or diversify in other sectors such as mining which are capital intensive and currently dominated by foreigners.

  3. “The sensible way to go about this program is to initially place the cultivation, marketing and selling of Cannabis in the hands of a disciplined state institution such as the Zambia National Service (ZNS).”

    Why does legalization – which should simply mean no longer putting people in jail for this non-violent offence – included making cannabis the business of the state? Or transnational corporations only, like the opium industry? Stop putting people (millions) in jail for this non-violent offense, and stop trying to control hemp. No one controls potatoes.

    • There is nothing Christian about Zambia, there is a lot of infidelity, theft, corruption, tribalism, nepotism and child abuse, incestuous relationships, domestic violence the list is endless…

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  5. Thanks Peter Tosh…even though you’ve been gone for almost 2 decades ago, your legalize it message is finally making in roads with a few hiccups here in there, we just wait for all those who were incriminated for consumption of the herb to be set free.

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