The Zimbabwe Industrial Hemp Association (ZIHA) is to push for the Harare government to relax the THC restrictions for hemp. It wants Zimbabwe to align with Malawi and define hemp as having THC levels of up to 1%. Harare’s legislated limit for hemp is that cannabis plants must have less than 0,3% THC to qualify.
The THC levels in hemp are fundamental to the development of a southern African hemp industry. The European Union and the United States have set their definitions of hemp as having 0,3% of THC or less. This is not problematic in colder climates as THC levels are easier to control and can be cultivated consistently at low levels.
However, Africa, by its nature, just can’t help but spike THC levels, and this obviously poses major problems around consistency of supply. The net effect is that sub-Saharan Africa may not get out of the starting blocks as a net exporter of hemp (ostracized by western legal definition), even with the potential advantage of being a low-cost producer.
ZIHA chairperson, Dr Zorodzai Maroveke told Cannabiz Africa in an exclusive interview on 30 August 2021 that a commercial entity in Zimbabwe was preparing to send three tons of dried hemp flower to Switzerland for testing purposes.
She said Covid-19 and general financial instability had resulted in the Zimbabwe hemp industry had been slow in getting off the ground in 2021, and that there were no large-scale plantations at this scale. She said she was encouraged that the government supported the development of the industry by providing an overarching legal framework for hemp that could work for both investors and farmers.
However, the 1% THC level in hemp limit was a major problem, she said, and to get that changed by the end of the year “will be our main focus”. She said Malawi had set a precedent by setting its hemp definition as cannabis having up to 1% and that South Africa should do the same. “That would give us a regional strength” she said. “I would favour hemp having THC levels of up to 3%” she said, as that would give out-grower farmers more leeway in having their crops processed.
Dr Maroveke may be ambitious in wanting hemp to replace tobacco as Zimbabwe’s main export crop in the long term, but in the meantime she’s got the ear of the Tobacco Research Board (TRB) which is including industrial hemp in plant trials along with alternative crops such as Chia and Sesame as well as other types of tobacco such as Shisha, which is very popular in the Middle East.
There are nearly 100 000 Zimbabwean farmers engaged directly in tobacco production while close to one million people are directly dependent on the “golden leaf”. Tobacco generates 30 percent of the country’s foreign currency, bringing in over US$600 million.