MBANJE, marijuana, cannabis or hemp, is one plant that has accounted for many people in Zimbabwe’s prisons.
Possession, let alone, cultivation or smoking it, has had serious consequences such as being fined or ultimately been jailed or both.
For years, Zimbabwe has classified it as a dangerous drug and yet, it has many medicinal properties.
It is no secret that African countries have woken up quickly to the reality of the rapidly growing cannabis industry with a focus on medicinal products.
In a matter of just a few years, countries that have for nearly a century held laws completely prohibiting the cannabis plant in all ways, practically overnight opened up their countries to legally cultivate cannabis commercially.
In 2018 the New Dispensation in Zimbabwe changed its law on cannabis cultivation in order to enter the growing global medical marijuana industry.
The narrative on herbal cannabis might have died in the media as soon as 57 companies were licensed but a lot of things have been happening away from the media that preoccupied itself with politics, corruption and other issues.
But behind the scenes of the daily media frenzy Zimbabwe is setting up state-of-the-art infrastructure to become one of the world’s largest hubs for production of cannabis and research for medicinal use.
In Msasa, east of Harare, KKOG a company with a reputation in spearheading research in production and development of medicine from cannabis, with one of its medicines “Immunite” being used on immune boosting in the fight against Covid-19, is setting a USD$10 million Medical Research Facility.
All the paper work, the plans and little everything else has been sorted out and KKOG will have its ground breaking ceremony on February 1, for the only laboratory in Southern Africa. All of which would not have been possible without the support of Government from the Vice President Constantino Chiwenga downwards along with the partnership of CBZ Bank.
The company is already farming cannabis in Chegutu and has dedicated over 400 hectares (1000 acres) to the plant.
The laboratory, according to KKOG, will attract as many as 150 research scientists in the quest to create new medicine to treat many ailments and especially medicine for Cancer, Alzheimers, Diabetes, Tourettes, PTSD, ADHD, Addictions, Epilepsy Research, and to boost immune systems against Covid-19, according to
“We have a medicinal research arm at KKOG and patents like this product “Immunite” which helps boost the immune system of those in Africa.
“Immunite is registered in two countries and sold all over Africa currently through those countries’ medicinal boards, hospitals and pharmacies. It helps in boosting immunity against Covid-19 as those who have died from the pandemic have been those with a weak Immune Systems.
“We are very grateful to Zimbabwe for affording us this opportunity and we are going after it. We are very positive of turning this project into the biggest in Southern Africa. Our plans are clear.
“We are in talks with many countries, Zimbabwe just understood the big picture clearly and was supportive the most important, which is why we chose it as our research hub in Southern Africa. We currently have offices in seven African countries and are in negotiations to build an East Africa and West African facility in 2022. As to which country, depends on the governmental assistance given. We were looking into Rwanda and have been negotiating with Horizon and RDB , as well as in Tanzania with EPZA and MSD, but are still in talks with officials in Ghana, Liberia, and Central African Republic. We are building the biggest state-of-the-art laboratory in the regions as well as the largest indoor/outdoor cannabis cultivation, and we could attract as many as 150 research scientists. KKOG is currently the only legal cannabis licensee in Democratic Republic of Congo which happens to be the largest cannabis grower in the world. Developing only one new medicine from cannabis would be immeasurable, say against cancer research in Zimbabwe? That would be great for KKOG and for Africa,’’ says chief executive officer Edouard Joseph.
Companies have been licensed for cultivation and processing of medicinal cannabis and own 100 percent of their investment. Cannabisor mbanje in Zimbabwe, is legally governed by the Dangerous Drugs Act, and is illegal to have or use. Found simply in possession, or using it, an offender can face up to 10 years in prison, and a fine on top of that.
All smoking paraphernalia related to cannabis is illegal, as is owning/managing a place where cannabis is used. All supply operations are illegal.
Trafficking cannabis can incur up to 10 years in prison with a fine. Growing it is also illegal and comes with prison sentences and large fines.
Basically, anything a regular person does with cannabis in Zimbabwe, is still met with prison sentences and fines. However, in 2018 the new Government of Zimbabwe decided that even though it would retain its harsh cannabis measures for its own citizens, it would legalize the cultivation of cannabis for research and medicinal purposes.
This was followed up a year later with an amendment that legalised cultivating industrial hemp. Since nothing seems to have been said about establishing a medical programme for citizens, the change in regulation for medical cannabis seems to be for commercial purposes only.
It is envisaged that KKOG will lead in the research because so far, it is the one that has moved farther in the developing medicinal research and subsequent medicine for the cannabis. So, on February I, all roads lead to Msasa and to the subsequent progress. It seems everything is cast in progress.