Zim researchers reluctant in applying for research licenses of Medicinal Cannabis

ONLY two research licenses for the cultivation of Medicinal Cannabis in Zimbabwe have been issued to date by the Medicines Control Authority of Zimbabwe (MCAZ) while 57 were given to those who want to grow it for export purposes.

By Kuda Pembere

A year ago, 57 local and foreign companies were given the license to grow the medicinal cannabis. A Cannabis Roundtable Meeting last Wednesday heard from MCAZ Regulatory Officer Mr Clive Kamhoti that the Regulator observed little interest in researching about Medicinal Cannabis amongst applicants.

I do agree that there is need for research in these cannabis products. As you heard from the deputy minister of health MCAZ is administering the Dangerous Drugs SI 62 of 2018 on behalf of the Ministry of Health. So, we have issued 59 licenses. Of the 59 licenses only two are research licenses.

“So at the moment everybody who wants the license wants to produce and export without doing the actual research that needs to be done. Thus, we are calling on all the stakeholders that are here to please apply for the research licenses,” he said.

In order to establish a grow operation in Zimbabwe, a person or company, has to apply to the government for a license, provide a plan for their cultivation site that complies with the country’s regulations, pay a $50K+ licensing fee, be prepared to pay an extra $15K a year as a tacked on annual fee, and another $5K if the project requires a research fee.

Licenses are given for a five-year term and can be renewed at the rate of USD20 000 for the standard licensing fee, and USD2,500 to renew the research part. These fees, are, of course, on top of whatever costs there are to perform business functions.

“Overall, it’s not a cheap endeavor, just from the licensing perspective, and not one that will likely be utilized by many residents of the country itself. Smaller fees would have enabled the citizens of Zimbabwe to use this new legalization for their own benefit, while keeping them higher is an invitation to investors outside of Africa,” Deon Maas wrote on Cannavigia.

Speaking at the same event, Vice President and Minister of Health and Child Care Dr Constantino Chiwenga who was represented by his Deputy Minister of Health and Child Care, Dr John Mangwiro said the use of cannabis should be restricted to medicinal uses and research and any criminal diversion of this controlled substance will not be tolerated.

“I would like to underscore that whilst the Government encourages the legal production of cannabis for medicinal use as well as for research purposes, any criminal diversion of this controlled substance will not be tolerated,” said VP Chiwenga.

“I must reiterate that those amongst us that are keen to embark on cannabis production and beneficiation should work closely with the Ministry of Health and Child Care and the Medicines Control Authority of Zimbabwe to ensure that all the relevant provisions of the law are observed.

“As the Minister for Health and Child Care, I appreciate that medicinal cannabis is a unique industry that will need innovative policy makers, modern regulation and communion between Government and private sector and other stakeholders.”

VP Chiwenga said advanced economies have made significant progress in research production and marketing of products from cannabis.

He implored local professionals not to be left behind if there are genuine socio-economic and environmental benefits that accrue from cannabis.
“It is, therefore, quite remarkable that Zimbabwe’s nascent cannabis industry is gathered here today, to map strategies around the potential and challenges of cannabis as alternative medicine,” said VP Chiwenga.

The Ministry of Health and Child Care has issued more than 60 medicinal cannabis licences and the Ministry of Lands, Agriculture, Fisheries, Water and Rural Development has issued more than 25 hemp permits.

VP Chiwenga said Government is concerned that the majority of the licences and hemp permits remain moribund due to a few critical factors that investors want cleared before committing investment funds.

“Government is committed to developing an Internationally competitive Zimbabwean cannabis industry that is predicated on integrity and policy consistency.

“As one of the pioneers on the continent, the Zimbabwean medicinal cannabis sub-sector has faced teething challenges.

“My office has worked closely with the Cannabis Industries Association of Zimbabwe since 2019 to iron out a number of the initial bottlenecks that would have seen the early death of the industry,” said VP Chiwenga.

He urged local health practitioners to equip themselves with the knowledge required to further homegrown research on medicinal cannabis.

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