Zimbabwe Hemp Industry More Attractive to Foreign Investors Than SA Because of More Realistic THC % Limits
21 April 2023 at 12:00:00
Harare has set its THC limits in the definition of hemp at 1% making it a far more attractive investment destination for international capital than South Africa which has a 0,2% THC limit. Most industry observers say this is unrealistic given local climatic conditions, given the propensity of “THC spikes” that are difficult to control.
This is praiseworthy. It’s a bold move for such a small country like Zimbabwe. Not even the US whose various state have bewildering laws on cannabis has done it,” Rex Matonga, a private adviser to Chinese companies looking to enter Zimbabwe’s promising cannabis sector, said to Cannabis Culture during a recent interview.
Zimbabwe’s new peers like Malawi allow up 1% THC in legal hemp; Ecuador 1%; and Switzerland up to 1%.
Pushing the law
In a law bill proposed to be amended and published at Christmas in Zimbabwe’s parliament, industrial hemp is slated to be removed from the country’s list of dangerous drugs. The bill specifically reads:
By the insertion of the following definition, ‘Industrial hemp’ means the plant cannabis sativa L and any part of that plant, including the seed thereof and all derivatives, extracts, cannabinoids, isomers, acids, salts and salts of isomers, whether growing or not with a delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol concentration of not more than one per centum on a dry weight basis.
Hence this February 2023, Zimbabwe authorities have just expanded the THC limit from 0.3% to 1% for industrial hemp.
This move far exceeds the limits of many countries – which limit the THC to very small percentages.
“Zimbabwe despite the tiny size of its economy is surprisingly a pacesetter on the African cannabis scene. In contrast, South Africa its neighbor and host of the largest cannabis investments in Africa, demand that CBD products can only be processed and hold no more than 0.001 % THC,” explained Matonga, then adviser. (Cannabiz Africa correction: 0,2%)
This latest move makes Zimbabwe a very liberal cannabis/hemp jurisdiction, says Natalie Zhande, of the Domestic Cannabis Growers Alliance, an informal grouping that is lobbying the Zimbabwe government to make sure that any foreign investor who comes in to set up hemp processing plants must cede a tiny amount of equity to women groups. “We are excited by the THC limit upwards,” she says.
Zimbabwe was the second quickest nation in Africa to legalize cannabis in 2018, and its army, a powerful institution in the country’s affairs, quickly moved to secure sites for cultivation in partnership with outside firms. In addition, in July 2022,Zimbabwe allowed hemp to used as a complement in medical products dispensed in the country .
By being so open-minded Zimbabwe is wagering to race ahead of giants like South Africa in securing the regional industrial hemp investment money, says Rex Matonga, the advisor of companies coming into Zimbabwe to do business.
Last year, Cannabis Culture reported of worries in South Africa that confusing laws and regulations will allow nearby players like Zimbabwe and Lesotho to ghost in and take off a slice of hemp and cannabis investment money destined for South Africa.
“Zimbabwe has a military-controlled government and so laws on hemp get passed fast on a whim. It’s also interesting that the Zimbabwe army has a massive interest in acquiring a foothold in industrial hemp production,” says Dikeledi Matla, chairperson of the Soweto Cannabis Alliance Forum, a lobby for Indigenous growers in South Africa.
However, O’brien Nhachi, a Zimbabwe-born environmentalist and social scientist says Zimbabwe quick-footed move to make liberal laws on hemp and cannabis are partly born out of the realization that its golden goose, tobacco cultivation, is in decline.
“The early warning signs are there. Not just climate change but the global attitudes towards tobacco. Tobacco cultivation and exports are faltering, and Zimbabwe feels hemp cultivation must be established quick as a replacement,” Nhachi says.
In April last year, Cannabis Culture reported that Zimbabwe’s 145 000 tobacco farmers are reeling from a growing anti-tobacco sentiment in key buyer countries like New Zealand and the EU. Hence, out of necessity, the country is already making impressive forays into cannabis and looking to detach itself from tobacco.
“Zimbabwe’s tobacco agriculture is on borrowed time. Tobacco’s prospects are not promising. Innovation in hemp is a matter of existence,” agreed Matonga, the adviser.
However, Zimbabwe by increasing this THC limit may run into conflict with the UN’s 1961 international drug convention regime. Cannabis related products have for decades been included in the UN’s list of narcotic drugs though via a vote in 2020 decided to “delete cannabis and cannabis resin from Schedule IV of the 1961 Convention” though “These substances remain subject to all levels of control of the 1961 Convention.”
It is impossible to speculate how the UN will view Zimbabwe’s latest move on THC because, Zimbabwe by coding this THC increase into its domestic laws, it may well skirt around rebuke from the UN, Matonga argued.
“This is a catch-22 situation, but the UN will be careful not to overreach in a nation’s economic sovereignty because in future more UN member states too will surely increase their THC limit” says Matonga.