By Chris Zumani Zimba
In international relations, it is very imperative for each sovereign state to remain politically independent and act unilaterally autonomous in the global arena as it deems fit for its own benefits than being fooled to sign every bilateral and multilateral treaty or convention at regional or international level. As a sovereign state, Zambia must not be forced or be manipulated by the World Health Organization (WHO), US, EU or any foreign political actor to delay this legalization of both cultivation and use of cannabis for medicinal purposes because our national interests, economic benefits and agro cultural practices on this ‘leaf of wisdom’ are totally different from other states around us or beyond. It is against this background that we have always asked the Zambian government to exercise policy caution by not ratifying and domesticating the World Health Organization (WHO) Framework Convention on Tobacco Controls (FCTC) as it is a highly Eurocentric and incomparable global governance tool for us.
When the Minister of Health, Hon. Dr. Chitalu Chilufya announced on 19th May, 2018 that “Zambia ponders this use of Medicinal Marijuana”, we noticed that this government was now making good policy sense for Zambians and not foreigners. But when the same Cabinet Minister said “our position remains the same that illegal utilisation of Marijuana will not be condoned – DEC and Zambia Police will continue to Police and mete out appropriate punishment to anyone who uses Marijuana illegally”, we noted that the Zambian government was not helping the policy and regulatory framework to suit and benefit Zambians. This piecemeal approach suggested by Dr. Chilufya sounds another limitation as usual post-colonial and Western enslavement for Zambia by Zambians. Moreover, the hypocrisy behind Dr. Chilufya’s statement on medicinal Marijuana is that the policy position he announced is already legal in Zambia.
Home Affairs Minister, Steven Kampyongo on May 2, 2018 correctly disclosed that the law provides for the cultivation of cannabis for medicinal purposes under Section 9 of the narcotic drugs and psychotropic substances Act Cap 96 of the Laws of Zambia. Mr. Kampyongo announced that according to section 6 of the dangerous and drugs act cap 95 of the Laws of Zambia, the Minister of Health may also provide for prohibiting and production, possession, sale or distribution of any drug to which this part applies except by any persons licensed or authorized by the health minister. Hence, Zambia now needs full legalisation and regulation of Cannabis for both medicinal, commercial and recreational purposes because what Dr. Chilufya announced is already legal and done by many foreign commercial farmers in Zambia while thousands of our poor indigenous people get arrested and imprisoned for doing the same.
Across Zambia, although Marijuana is illegal, people continue to sell it as well as smoke it through the black market and people will continue to cultivate, sell and smoke it no matter what the government says or does. We surely agree that Marijuana has less harmful effects than alcohol, cigarettes and guns and Zambia stands to benefit if fully legalized and regulated.
According to Dr Melanie Dreher’s studies on the effects of Marijuana on the human body and its use during pregnancy, she proves that children born to Marijuana consuming mothers have no link to any form of birth defects and that the children tend to be smarter than children born of non-using mothers. If Zambians are still debating, please give the Easterners a federal exception to freely grow and eat their food. As we speak, many of our relatives in the East are in state prisons due to this issue. Our Ngoni warriors need this ‘green leaf’ to hit the ground with thunder power and energy during Ncwala – so, give us.
In fact, the Zambian government will raise huge revenue to settle most of these sovereign loans and public debts on our neck from marijuana sales, tax revenue and license fees once fully legalized. The day Zambia legalizes the cultivation and smoking of cannabis is the day this ‘Christian Nation’ will become more Christian as thousands of tourists from everywhere will naturally start coming to visit and enjoy the blessings of our ‘Marijuana Mecca’ and contribute to the state’s tourism market. Zambia will welcome foreign tourists and their money for our economy.
Zambia’s economy has consistently benefited from tobacco production – lets ignore the WHO FCTC for now because tobacco production goes side by side with cannabis production everywhere. Legalizing Marijuana will grow Zambia’s agricultural sector by huge margins because demand for ‘Ganja’ and tobacco will brutally increase due to the commercialization of weed. My people who are traditional tobacco growers will be among the first applicants for cannabis cultivation -hoping that it will not be priced to suit the Chinese, Indians and European farmers because ‘weed’ is Zambia’s traditional crop naturally grown by our people.
By legalizing ‘Ganja’, the Zambian government will open the flood gate of employment opportunities for many underpowered and poor citizens who will benefit from multiple jobs from Marijuana production, processing, enforcement, regulation, marketing, distribution and consumption. In addition, the Zambian criminal justice system will rest and focus on more serious crimes than keep on chasing and arresting my innocent Ngoni and Tumbuka people for growing ‘Ganja’ once legalized. In fact, comparative studies in the US state of Colorado show that cannabis-related court cases saw a decline, dropping 81% between 2012 and 2017 after the legalization of weed.
By routinely being arrested by Drug Enforcement Commission (DEC) and state police for cultivating cannabis, Zambians are not fully enjoying the benefits of a liberal democracy and have over many decades been deprived to freely grow what they love and naturally eat. Once Zambians obtain state licenses to grow, cash and export ‘the leaf of wisdom’, they will in turn benefit from receiving bank credit facilities as ‘normal and legitimate farmers’. As many people know, legalized marijuana also helps to reduce prescription drug use with studies in the US showing that states with legalized cannabis use saw Medicare prescription reduction for drugs used to help conditions treatable by marijuana. Zambia needs this more than rich these countries.
In conclusion, one of the greatest policy weaknesses to declaring Zambia ‘a Christian Nation’ is the challenge of morally enslaving ourselves to start thinking and behaving like ‘Jews in the desert’ – unable to freely eat and drink from our own cultural and traditional heritage. In Chipata and Lundazi among my wise people, the Ngoni, Chewa, Senga and Tumbuka, cultivation of Cannabis is our known culture and tradition, whether it is made illegal or legal as our tobacco growers find the agro culture of growing and selling the ‘leafs of wisdom’ their birthright. Hence, the good news to legalize Cannabis in Zambia is not just 150% welcome, but this development will liberate all Zambians to stand proud and free at last. On this policy, the Zambian government is speaking more than sense.
Chris Zumani Zimba is political scientist, author, PhD scholar, lecturer, researcher and consultant.