The cash-strapped Zimbabwean government said on Tuesday that it will amend its laws to allow industrial production and export of cannabis (marijuana) in a desperate effort to boost its foreign currency earnings, Business Day reports.
Information minister Monica Mutsvangwa said the country is looking to make cannabis exports a top foreign currency earner and compete with tobacco, which is the country’s largest export earner outside mining.
“The crop can be a good substitute to the leading export crop tobacco, which is currently facing possibilities of being banned internationally due to its adverse effects on health,” she said.
The country is facing a severe foreign currency crunch that has led to shortages of fuel, medicines and basics, such as bread.
She said the focus will be on hemp, which comes from the same plant family as marijuana, but has almost none of the psychoactive substance found in marijuana.
“Currently, Zimbabwe only allows for the cultivation and processing of cannabis specifically for medicinal and scientific purposes. In view of the foregoing, the law governing the use and control of hemp in the country will be repealed to reflect the current industrial thrust of the country.”
Experts distinguish hemp as an agriculture product as opposed to cannabis which is considered a drug.