Editor's Comment

Think through legalising marijuana

IT HAS been argued that Zambia is hoarding its wealth by refusing to legalise the cultivation and commercialisation of marijuana.
Promoters of marijuana cultivation say that marijuana is a magic crop and believe that it can transform the country’s economic outlook.
With the country’s external debt standing at US$9.51 billion as at the end of second quarter of 2018, promoters of the green crop’s cultivation say earnings will be sufficient enough to produce the needed revenue to pay off our debts and invest in the economy.
Marijuana is said to be black gold and that there is an abundant scientific body of knowledge on the positive and useful applications of medicinal marijuana in various walks of life.
The crop is said to have multiple commercial usages. It does not need fertiliser and it possesses excellent qualities that readily replenish the soils and therefore adds huge values in the preservation of the environment and its ecology.
It is said there are also several other economic advantages for growing marijuana for medicinal purposes from time immemorial.
The plant itself is said to produce several by-products which are important and vital ingredients in the manufacturing process and pharmaceutical industries and car-making sectors.
Its potential for employment generation in the medicinal marijuana would far supersede that which is reportedly obtainable in the mining industry.
For instance, the United States of America cultivates US$50 billion worth of medicinal marijuana, which is a quarter of what is produced globally.
Given these statistics, and particularly the advantages, many wonder why Zambia and other countries are hesitant to embrace this narcotic drug, which is also notorious for being the catalyst for a wide range of crimes, including murder.
Although the market for the by-products of this plant is huge, there is absolute need to be cautious.
Some contend, however, that procrastination should not be likened to being cautious because undue delay could have Zambia arriving at the party late.
The pro-marijuana crusaders note that the science of producing medicinal marijuana would last forever and that because it is based on agricultural practices, many peasant and emerging farmers benefit from it.
They also say the venture requires minimal capital up-take and so many farmers would be willing and eager to invest and grow the plant for social and economic development.
President Edgar Lungu has heard about all these ‘benefits’ of legalising the cultivation of marijuana as Government has been formally approached.
But President Lungu says he will need convincing reasons why cultivation of marijuana should be legalised for medical purposes owing to the current abuse of the narcotic drug.
He said legalisation of marijuana for medical use should be subject to thorough research.
The President said this yesterday when he toured the Drug Enforcement Commission (DEC) stand mounted in the Lusaka showgrounds as part of International Women’s Day exhibitions.
The concern that medicinal marijuana is prone to abuses is real.
It is bad enough already that with a total ban of the use of the drug, hundreds, if not thousands, of people still abuse it.
Although the desire is to legalise the drug for medicinal purposes, there is no doubt that others could want to take advantage of this legal use for social needs.
As President Lungu is saying, Zambia is not ready to legalise marijuana because it might end up in wrong hands.
The President is right, but he has not curtailed the debate.
He is merely urging those arguing for the legalisation of marijuana to also come with measures that will ensure that the drug does not end up in wrong hands.
For instance, how does the country ensure that the marijuana farms are secure enough to prevent any thefts or under-stating of the quantities that are actually grown?
If growing of the plant is restricted, how then does the ordinary farmer benefit from such a venture? Surely, peasant farmers cannot manage the levels of security that would be required. In this event, only those that have adequate resources to, for instance, setup appropriate facilities would fulfil the regulations.
Where would this leave the peasant farmer? Most likely still at the bottom of the ladder.
Is this what Zambia wants? Certainly not. So let there be more thought put in this proposal but let there also be a quick but well-informed decision.

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