HEALTH and Childcare minister Dr David Parirenyatwa says legalisation of medicinal cannabis in Zimbabwe has generated interest locally and internationally with many players intending to venture into cannabis farming.
By Kudakwashe Pembere
This follows the legalization of cannabis growing by government through recently announced Statutory Instrument 62 of 2018. Minister Parirenyatwa told medical professionals at the official opening of Zimbabwe Medical Association (ZiMA) 2018 Congress that several international countries want to farm the crop.
“We want to know if you have the technical expertise. Because we have had queues in my office I must tell you, queues of people coming with projects that we want to grow. Not from Zimbabwe but coming from South Africa, Israel, Australia, UK, there was one who came from Argentina. They are queuing to grow this medicinal cannabis,” he said.
He added there will be a strict process of shortlisting prospective players to farm medicinal cannabis.
“So in terms of our security we are going to screen them. We will make sure they are okay because some of them have been doing drug business that side. They have come here to cleanse themselves so we will not allow that. So we will have adequate screen properties,” said Dr Parirenyatwa.
The Health Minister also said there is need to know how prospective farmers would fund their projects to avoid the Lesotho case where several players had their licenses revoked due to lack of capital.
“We also want to identify where you will sell it after growing. What they call off takers. Do you have off takers and then of course proof of funding? In Lesotho they had issued 11 licenses. But when they issued the license, the people there now, some of them did not have funding. They were starting to use those licenses to banks to look for funding and then the things collapsed. They withdrew a lot of those licenses,” he said.
To acquire the license for medicinal cannabis, a hefty $50 000 must be forked out.
The minister noted that apart from medicinal benefits, this crop has huge potential to boost the national economy.
“It’s got potential not just medicinal but huge economic benefits and there is a rush worldwide to grow medicinal cannabis,” he said.
Agriculture expert Wilbert Mutezo told this reporter that it is a capital intensive project.
“Production cost excluding land will be in the range of $1500-$2000 per hectare. The quality needs consideration of what product we are going to use. For example, seed, oil cake, fibre or the oil. There can be a dual system of production both fibre and seed or single system fibre only or seed production,” he said.
Dr Parirenyatwa said, “From reports from the International Narcotics Control Board, the major producers of medicinal cannabis over the years are UK, Canada and Israel. A cannabis extract containing dronabinol (delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol) and cannabidiol is licensed as an adjunct treatment for moderate to severe spasticity associated with multiple sclerosis in patients who have not responded adequately to other skeletal muscle relaxants.”
On the Governance and Oversight arrangements for the implementation of the S I; a Steering Committee of Ministers with a corresponding supporting Cannabis Technical Committee of Officials was set up by His Excellency the President made up of the Minister responsible for Health, Hon Dr P D Parirenyatwa as the Chairperson and Minister responsible Agriculture, Hon Perence Shiri, being the vice-Chairperson, with the other members being Ministers responsible for Trade, Finance, Home Affairs, and Justice
Minister Parirenyatwa said initially producer’s licenses would be issued for pilots by government entities in partnership with the private sector, Public Private Partnerships (PPPs).