In 2018, Zimbabwe became the second country in Africa to legalize the production of cannabis, but strict rules and high fees have allowed liberal neighbors like Lesotho to outshine her.
When cannabis interest was growing exponentially in Zimbabwe in 2018, its parliament fast-tracked a legalization law, thus earning high praises. But, three years after earning praise, Zimbabwe ́s cannabis boom has yet to be realized, at least among locals, while its neighbors are outshining the country.
The reasons why Zimbabwe has underperformed despite being a cannabis legalization pacesetter is that the country demanded at first that cannabis investors give equity to authorities and further ordered marijuana growers to only farm on state land.“This isn ́t what investment capital likes; and less so cannabis capital.
This is even harsher for local entrepreneurs moving onto cannabis,” says Carter Mavhiza in Zimbabwe an independent public accountant who monitors cannabis investments. Such harsh laws are the reason why most first cannabis cultivators in Zimbabwe are doing it on state land rather than purchasing private plots as happens in Lesotho, a country nearby. An example of a cannabis investor in Zimbabwe who has been forced by laws to do business on state-owned land is Du Sud Cannabis Zimbabwe. The company is based on a plot near a state prison in Bulawayo, Zimbabwe ́s second-largest city.
Realizing the negative aspects of its hard cannabis laws, Zimbabwe ́s authorities later walked back their demands for equity. International markets would be made unhappy by such hard and rigid laws, explains Frian Dickson, managing director at Du Sud. The willingness of Zimbabwe ́s authorities to drop hard demands is “proof that the government is working very hard to make sure that investors’ needs are met,” Dickson adds. But still very few Zimbabwe local farmers could afford to switch to cannabis immediately.
The Medicines Control Council of Zimbabwe, a state regulator, demands that all cannabis cultivators must put security measures that include perimeter fences, motion detection electronics, access gates, and constant CCTV control rooms.
Producers must also ensure cannabis operations are fitted with air-cleaning systems to block odor and pollen from escaping.“This is sensible in a well-off market where producers get access to commercial finance at affordable rates, not in Zimbabwe, a country with no currency and not much formal economy to talk of,” argues Mavhiza, the accountant. “This becomes a barrier. License fees used to range from the US $20,000 to $50,000.
That ́s before a farmer can calculate machinery and seeds costs. This effectively puts off enthusiastic local producers and gives an unfair financial advantage to outside cannabis cultivators from China, the EU or the US.”Sensing the discontent of local producers and farmers, at the end of 2020, Zimbabwe ́s government reduced the fees for hemp production to $US200 but left cannabis fees unchanged.
To cultivate pot, farmers still must fork out $US50,000 for a five-year license. “It doesn’t require rocket science to see why foreign investors, not domestic entrepreneurs, are more interested in producing cannabis in Zimbabwe. The cost punishes locals and helps wealthy foreign corporations,” says Mavhiza.
Written and Published by Ray Mwareya in Weed World Magazine Issue 154