Tanzanian government working on policy, says investors are keen
The Tanzanian government is likely to join those African countries that have legalized the production of medical cannabis for export.
Senior government officials are believed to be working on a policy framework for medical marijuana after a rousing parliamentary debate on 4 February 2020, in which members urged their government to legalize cannabis farming. The consensus from the floor was that Tanzania was already a reputed producer of high quality illegal marijuana, known locally as ‘bhang’, and that the country was in danger of missing out on the African trend.
Minister of State in the Prime Minister’s Office, Angellah Kairuki, confirmed that the Tanzanian government was seriously looking at legalization, and told parliament: “My office has received applications from investors who have shown interest in bhang processing so I ask legislators to be patient while government is working on the matter”.
Tabling a report on cannabis tabled by the Agriculture, Livestock and Water Committee, MP Jumanne Kishimba said: “Our neighbouring countries such as Malawi, Zambia and Uganda have embarked on the commercialisation of bhang cultivation. Bhang is now used in pharmaceutical industries and other productive sectors, why we’re not utilising this opportunity to boost our economy considering the fact that Tanzania is among the leading bhang producers in the world?” .
Kahsimba also called for cannabis dealers to be granted an amnesty and be roped into the national initiative: “Honourable Speaker I, therefore, ask the government to provide a six-month pardon for any person with bhang stock to come forward and sell it to the government before the world price drops. This can be an official sale by which the government issues receipts to sellers. The government will get revenue and growers/sellers too,”
This bought cheers from the house, prompting legalization proponent, MP Joseph Musukuma of Geita Rural, to rise, calling on the government to formulate regulations to allow bhang commercialisation, while MP John Heche (Chadema-Tarime Rural) seized the opportunity to ask Minister for Home Affairs George Simbachawene to release his voters who had been arrested for engaging in bhang production.
However, his request was rejected by Minister of State in the Prime Office (Parliamentary Affairs, Policy, Employment, Labour, Youth and Disabled) Jenista Mhagama, who stated that the government had not allowed bhang production.
The debate got heated with the Speaker of the House, Speaker Ndugai saying cannabis was serious enough to be in the national interest. “I was recently in Canada. Bhang is a very big business… it can be one of the leading cash crops if well-controlled, monitored and moderated.”
The Tanzanian government has not made any public announcements on proposed cannabis legalization since the February 2020 debate.