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Black market to rule eSwatini cannabis production for years to come

eSwatini’s cannabis market is growing at a compound annual growth rate of 5,5% and is forecast to be worth US$3 million in 2024. 

Currently 100% of Swaziland’s crop is cultivated illegally and the black market will continue to dominate with less than 4% of revenues generated likely to come from licensed operations in the next four years.

That’s among the research findings published in Birguid’s Southern African Cannabis Industry Analysis April 2020, which says that decriminalization of cannabis in its main export market, South Africa, is likely to the main eSwatini market driver. Read Birguid’s July 2021 Cannabis Industry Report in Southern Africa here.


vice swaziland documentaryWatch Vice TV’s guide to Weed in Swaziland


SA will remain the main driver of the eSwatini market

Legalization of medical marijuana products in South Africa provides a window of opportunity for Swaziland, which should be taking a leaf from its cousin, Lesotho. 

Because South Africa cannot legally grow cannabis for domestic consumption all CBD products currently have to be imported. Lesotho has positioned itself perfectly to supply low-cost cannabis for the South African market.

However, the regulatory framework may shift in the next few years allowing South Africans to grow cannabis for local processing instead of only for export, which means Swaziland’s window of opportunity might not be open for more than a few years.


Black market will continue to dwarf the legal one

Researcher James  Maposa says on the current forecasts it will remained dwarfed by the underground market. In 2024 legal cannabis exports are likely to account for 4 % of cannabis revenues, amounting to only about US$120 000 (barely US$2 million). The underground market, making up 96% of production, is expected to earn just under US$3 billion (R480 million).


swaziland cannabis field

Legalization not likely to dent illegal revenues


This means that the legalization of cannabis will not be of much benefit to the eSwatini government or its people in terms of revenue. Lesotho, on the other hand is forecasting at least US$2 billion of legal exports alone within the next few years.

Maposa says that “a key consideration going forward will be for the eSwatini government to support small scale farmers through government regulated grower programmes that include them in the growth and progression of the industry.


Swazi weed ‘too strong for medicinal cannabis’

He adds “destigmatizing and legalizing cannabis in eSwatini is crucial for longer-term growth of the industry in the forecast; including building a local market for medicinal, and if possible, for recreational consumption.”

Swaziland’s government officials appear ambivalent about legal cannabis production. The Deputy Director of Pharmaceutical Services claimed the indigenous cannabis grown in Swaziland was in too strong for medicinal cannabis. Fortunate Bhembe gave this as the reason why the Health Ministry was unable to conduct medical research trials. She was quoted in the Times of Swaziland on 25 June 2020: “The permitted THC level for medicinal use purposes is 3% and below, yet the dagga in the country is way above this level” 


2 Responses

  1. Great I need extra info as to the cannabiz situation in ESwatini.
    I need to understand the law of inporting good quality Cannabiz from Eswatini, legally

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