Opinion

Marijuana is the answer

IS it by coincidence that everyone thinks that marijuana could be the answer to Zambia’s economic problems in as far as settling the national debt is concerned?
We do not think so. We are on the side of the majority who believe that the establishment and implementation of the marijuana policy has delayed.
It is obvious that the country needs to hurry up the formulation of a guiding policy in the cultivation of marijuana for medicinal and export purposes.
No better reason is needed other than that the country needs a viable economic activity to raise the much needed income to contribute to the national coffers to cater for various internal and external debt payments.
With an external debt of about US$11 billion as well other internal obligations, we do not think there is need to delay in finding economic activities to help raise the country’s domestic revenue.
On top of this, there are bond holders who have refused to give the country the six-month debt relief period which Government had requested for.
Government was hoping for some respite in view of the economic havoc wrought by the coronavirus pandemic. And in this, Zambia is not alone as most world economies have been hit negatively with most governments seeking not only debt relief but debt cancellation.
For instance, both Kenya and South Africa are seeking debt relief and debt cancelling as Covid wreaks havoc with their economies.
That is why we think that it is important for countries like Zambia to seize opportunities that are presented as alternative revenue sources for the country.
This is dilly dallying and delays in formulating a policy to guide the cultivation and production of marijuana for medicinal purposes are so unnecessary.
The country is in a race against time as it fights the Covid-19 as well as trying to pull industries out of the doldrums brought about by the impact of the same pandemic.
Moreover, Cabinet already made a decision.
It mandated the Ministry of Health to spearhead the production of marijuana for medicinal and commercial purposes.
Cabinet at its 22nd special meeting on December 4, last year gave approval, to the Ministerial Technical Committee for the cultivation, processing and exporting of cannabis for economic and medicinal purposes.
According to details gathered, the ministry was given the mandate to spearhead the whole process including formulation of the policy while the Ministry of Agriculture would only deal with hemp.
Ministry of Agriculture Permanent Secretary, Sungawayo Zyambo, referred queries to the Ministry of Health whose spokesperson, Abel Kabalo, said the formulation of marijuana policy was being handled through a multi-sectoral approach.
“The formulation of the marijuana policy is being handled using a multi-sectoral approach, we do not want to be seen to be disorganised and therefore the Chief Government spokesperson is in a better position to deal with this matter,” Dr Kabalo said.
Africa’s legal cannabis industry could be worth more than $7.1 billion annually by 2023 if legislation was introduced in some of the continent’s major markets.
This is according to research from The African Cannabis Report, the first detailed report on the legal cannabis industry in Africa.
There is no reason to continue struggling economically when the country has a God-given resource which could be utilised with the right policies in place.
Other countries already have such policies in place and it would not be a bad idea to borrow ideas from them.

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