Dora Siliya, the spokesperson for the Zambian government, announced on Monday that Zambia has legalized the production and export of medical cannabis.

“I would like to confirm that the firm… has given its agreement in principle… for the cultivation, processing, besides to export of cannabis for economic and medicinal purposes,” said Dora Siliya.

In fact , the decision was taken at a special Cabinet meeting on 4 December, attended by the Ministries of Justice, Defence, Interior, Finance, Trade, Agriculture and Health.

Dora Siliya said also that the government has given the Ministry of Health responsibility for coordinating the issuance of the necessary licenses, while a technical committee composed of ministers from various departments will develop guidelines.

Zambia’s Strategy

Zambia’s motivation is rooted in a large budget deficit and debt burden. The growth in external debt to $10.5 billion at the end of 2018, from $8.74 billion a year earlier, raises concerns that the country is heading into a crisis.

Zambia lowered its growth forecast for 2019 in September as bad weather affected agricultural and electricity production, while the International Monetary Fund said growth should remain moderate over the medium term.

The president of the Green Party of the Zambian opposition, Peter Sinkamba, who advocates the export of cannabis since 2013, said that this decision could bring Zambia up to $36 billion a year.

Indeed it’s depending on how it is done, it could simply change the face of the Zambian economy,” Sinkamba said. So, it could be a blessing or a curse, like diamonds and gold, depending on a political direction.

Zambia announced in 2017 that it would legalize the self-cultivation of medical cannabis on condition that it obtained a license from the Ministry of Health. In May 2017, however, the Minister of Health, Dr. Chitalu Chilufya, stated that he had no intention of issuing cultivation licenses. Theoretically, therefore, medical cannabis use is still punishable in Zambia.

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