Dagga can give Africa E1 tril­lion eco­nomic lift - DOPE MAG­A­ZINE

Observer on Saturday - - News - By Bodwa Mbingo

With Swazi­land be­ing one of the coun­tries still weigh­ing its op­tions on the le­gal­i­sa­tion of dagga with par­lia­ment’s Cannabis Com­mit­tee lead­ing the calls, it has been noted that Africa is poised to be the world’s next dagga pow­er­house.

It has been re­vealed that if cannabis is grown and ex­ported legally across the African con­ti­nent‚ the gains could be huge and as much as US$79.8bil­lion (about E983­bil­lion), which is close to E1 tril­lion per year.

This is ac­cord­ing to Dope Mag­a­zine, a mag­a­zine which cov­ers the de­vel­op­ment of the le­gal cannabis in­dus­try glob­ally. Dope‚ based in the US‚ states that Le­sotho’s de­ci­sion to grant a med­i­cal mar­i­juana li­cence to Verve Dy­nam­ics, a Som­er­set West com­pany that pro­duces botan­i­cal ex­tracts, is the first time in Africa that cannabis has been viewed as a source of rev­enue in­stead of a crim­i­nal ac­tiv­ity. The mag­a­zine feels that it is ac­tu­ally about time.

Dope says Africa pro­duces a quar­ter of all cannabis and “an es­ti­mated 38.2 mil­lion African adults (7.7 per cent of the adult pop­u­la­tion) use cannabis each year – far more than the world av­er­age of 3.8 per cent”.

Yet progress to­wards de­crim­i­nal­i­sa­tion and le­gal­i­sa­tion has been slow. “Most African coun­tries have been hes­i­tant to em­brace the rapidly ex­pand­ing mar­ket for le­gal cannabis‚ al­though Africa has pro­duced cannabis for gen­er­a­tions. With coloni­sa­tion came crim­i­nal­i­sa­tion.”

Dope said de­spite Verve Dy­nam­ics’ new li­cence‚ “no ef­fort has been made to le­galise or reg­u­late cannabis in Le­sotho‚ and it’s the same in South Africa”.

But the tide is turn­ing in coun­tries such as Morocco‚ Malawi and Swazi­land‚ and the eco­nomic ar­gu­ment in favour of le­gal cul­ti­va­tion was even­tu­ally likely to win out.

“While the impact would be dif­fer­ent for each coun­try on the con­ti­nent‚ there’s no doubt that for some of the poor­est res­i­dents‚ the ben­e­fits would be sub­stan­tial‚” it said.

“For ex­am­ple‚ in Swazi­land ex­treme poverty can still be found in many ru­ral ar­eas‚ and cannabis is al­ready re­spon­si­ble for help­ing some fam­i­lies sur­vive. Khat­hazile‚ a grand­mother of 11 or­phaned grand­chil­dren‚ told the New York Times‚ “If you grow corn or cab­bages‚ the ba­boons steal them. With­out weed‚ we would be starv­ing.”

“If cannabis is grown and ex­ported legally across the African con­ti­nent‚ the gains could be huge — as much as US$79.8bil­lion (about E983 bil­lion) per year. And some of the big­gest ben­e­fits could go to Africa’s small­holder farm­ers‚ who would be able to com­mand the mar­ket price‚ if it were le­gal.”

Dope said de­mand for hemp — be­ing grown on a trial ba­sis in Malawi — had in­creased ex­po­nen­tially in the last few years‚ and it could be a valu­able ex­port crop.

“Hemp de­mand has in­creased by 233 per cent over the past few years, and could prove a valu­able ex­port crop for any­thing from rope to paper and bio­fuel. And the list of ben­e­fits is ex­ten­sive: Hemp is easy to grow, pre­vents soil ero­sion, is dis­ease-re­sis­tant, and far bet­ter for the en­vi­ron­ment, re­quir­ing 50 per cent less wa­ter than cot­ton.”

Con­junc­tion

“Could mar­i­juana be the next big in­dus­try for Africa? If han­dled cor­rectly by each coun­try’s gov­ern­ments‚ as well as the large busi­nesses that set up shop in con­junc­tion with lo­cal farm­ers‚ it very well could be.”

Dope con­tin­ues that as of 2005, the con­ti­nent has pro­duced more than 10 500 tons of cannabis each year in 19 out of 53 African coun­tries, ac­cord­ing to a UN sur­vey. This ac­counted for roughly 25 per cent of the to­tal global pro­duc­tion of cannabis.

“So it is no won­der count­less eyes are watch­ing to see what the var­i­ous African gov­ern­ments will de­cide. Un­for­tu­nately, it’s been slow go­ing. Un­like coun­tries in Europe and the Amer­i­cas, most African coun­tries have been hes­i­tant to em­brace the rapidly ex­pand­ing mar­ket for le­gal cannabis, al­though Africa has pro­duced cannabis for gen­er­a­tions.”

Ac­cord­ing to the lat­est UNODC data, Africa is home to five of the top thirty coun­tries for cannabis con­sump­tion among the adult pop­u­la­tion with Nige­ria at po­si­tion three with a 14.3 per cent con­sump­tion, Zam­bia at po­si­tion 10 with 9.5 per cent, Mada­gas­car at po­si­tion 14 with 9.1 per cent con­sump­tion, Egypt at po­si­tion 15 with 6.24 per cent con­sump­tion and Sierra Leone at po­si­tion 30 with 5.2 per cent con­sump­tion.

Over 75 per cent of Le­sotho’s pop­u­la­tion lives off the agri­cul­tural mar­ket, and Le­sotho farm­ers have al­ready been grow­ing cannabis for years, ex­port­ing it across the bor­der to South Africa, ac­cord­ing to an in­ter­view with DPH. In fact, a 1999 UNESCO re­port found that “cannabis is grown ev­ery­where in the coun­try,” and much of Europe re­ceives their cannabis from Africa.

Un­for­tu­nately, de­spite the new li­cence for Verve Dy­nam­ics, no ef­fort has been made to le­galise or reg­u­late cannabis in Le­sotho, and it’s the same in South Africa. In Jo­han­nes­burg, le­gal cannabis use is still con­tested, but that has not stopped the city’s first cannabis cof­fee shop. Run by Frank L, who will not give his full name for print, the shop is lit by neon signs but runs in the shad­ows to stay in op­er­a­tion.

Though the West­ern Cape High Court ruled last March that pri­vate use and cul­ti­va­tion of cannabis in some­one’s home is con­sti­tu­tion­ally le­gal, Par­lia­ment has yet to amend the law, so un­cer­tainty still ex­ists. How­ever, it seems to be just a mat­ter of time, con­sid­er­ing how pop­u­lar Frank’s shop is.

In Oc­to­ber, Frank spoke to the Sun­day Times in South Africa, stat­ing, “Peo­ple just want a place where they smoke that’s a so­cial, chilled, safe space.”

And the ev­i­dence is over­whelm­ing. In the first month alone, more than 1 300 peo­ple went to Frank’s store from all walks of life, with pa­trons in­clud­ing a judge, busi­ness­men, stu­dents and stock­bro­kers.

And else­where through­out Africa, the green rush trend is grow­ing.

In Morocco, the hashish trade em­ploys more than 800 000 peo­ple, ac­cord­ing to Bloomberg, and it is worth US$10 bil­lion about (E123 bil­lion) a year in sales. Malawi is known for high qual­ity mar­i­juana pro­duc­tion, in­clud­ing the ‘Malawi Gold’ strain. Plus, the coun­try is now cul­ti­vat­ing hemp on a trial ba­sis.

In Swazi­land, prom­i­nent pub­lic figures have come out in favour of cannabis to help boost the strug­gling econ­omy.

The ques­tion is, then, “How could cannabis help grow the African econ­omy?”

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