THE Community Working Group on Health (CWGH) has expressed concern over government’s failure to hold public consultations before legalizing mbanje or cannabis (marijuana) at a time the country is grappling with the problem of drug abuse, especially among the youth.
CHWGH Executive Director, Itai Rusike told HealthTimes that the lack of consultation on such critical matters by government would plunge the nation into some irreversible future problems.
“While the organisation does not doubt or discredit the medicinal benefits associated with cannabis, it is the lack of consultations and the social destruction that is likely to occur in the long-term that worries us most.
“The government last week gazetted a $50 000 licence fee for people wishing to produce cannabis and cut prison terms for those caught illegally dealing in the substance. It should be highlighted that Zimbabwe is already grappling with the problem of drug abuse, with the youth taking all sorts of substances including mental health tablets (blue tablets) glue, musombodhiya (strong alcoholic drink), bronclear (bronco), alcohol and cocaine just to get high,”,” said Rusike.
He added that by legalizing, the government is creating a bigger national problem that far outweigh both the medicinal and economic benefits of the substance to the natio.
The societal destruction will be unfathomable while the cost of rehabilitating thousands of people will be unbearable to a government already struggling to fund its health sector. He also said is it was contemptuous of the highest order for the Ministry of Health and Child Care (MoHCC) to legalise the production of cannabis without consulting the communities that would bear the effects of the move.
“It would have been proper for such an important national policy to be brought before Parliament to deliberate on its merits and de-merits on society than just imposing it. The government must have carried out thorough research in countries where cannabis is legalized. By legalizing the substance, the government has put the country on the spotlight for the wrong reasons.
“Zimbabweans wishing to travel to international destinations will be subjected to unnecessary scrutiny, suspicion, searches and monitoring just like the drug barons/mules from the opium producing countries. We are taking the “Zimbabwe is open for business” mantra too far. The high licence fees of $50 000 to produce marijuana entails that it is only the rich commercial farmers that will be able venture into this seemingly lucrative business sidelining the small-scale and communal farmers”
He blasted the fees structure which he says excludes the poor communal farmers meaning that issues of equity were not even considered when this policy was adopted.
“CWGH, as a community-based organisation that promotes community participation in health, put strong emphasis on community engagement and involvement in decisions that affect the welfare of communities in general.”