‘Stick to regulated use of cannabis’ The chairman of AVAGRO Vikramrumar Naik (second from right) hands over a cheque for healthcare professionals training in cannabis for a year to Zimbabwe Industrial Hemp Trust (ZIHT) chief executive Zorodzai Maroveke (third from left), while former Health and Child Care Minister Dr David Parirenyatwa (second from left), Zanu PF National Political Commissar Cde Mike Bimha (left) and Health and Child Care Deputy Minister Dr John Mangwiro (right) look on in Harare yesterday. - Picture Lynn Munjanja

Mukudzei Chingwere Herald Reporter

The use of cannabis should be restricted to medicinal uses and research and any criminal diversion of this controlled substance will not be tolerated, Vice President and Minister of Health and Child Care Dr Constantino Chiwenga said yesterday.

He made the remarks through Deputy Minister of Health and Child Care, Dr John Mangwiro, at the cannabis roundtable interchange held in Harare.

The meeting brought together stakeholders from Government, private sector, academia, professionals, regulatory authorities and partners and they deliberated on the sustainable way forward for cannabis.

Zimbabwe became the second country in Africa after Lesotho to legalise the production of cannabis for medicinal and scientific purposes in 2018.

The global cannabis industry is expected to grow from US$28 billion in 2021 to US$197 billion by 2028, and Government will look to leverage on such growing industries as it journeys towards an upper middle income society by 2030 as envisaged by President Mnangagwa.

“I would like to underscore that whilst the Government encourages the legal production of cannabis for medicinal use as well as for research purposes, any criminal diversion of this controlled substance will not be tolerated,” said VP Chiwenga through Dr Mangwiro.

“I must reiterate that those amongst us that are keen to embark on cannabis production and beneficiation should work closely with the Ministry of Health and Child Care and the Medicines Control Authority of Zimbabwe to ensure that all the relevant provisions of the law are observed.

“As the Minister for Health and Child Care, I appreciate that medicinal cannabis is a unique industry that will need innovative policy makers, modern regulation and communion between Government and private sector and other stakeholders.”

VP Chiwenga said advanced economies have made significant progress in research production and marketing of products from cannabis.

He implored local professionals not to be left behind if there are genuine socio-economic and environmental benefits that accrue from cannabis.

“It is, therefore, quite remarkable that Zimbabwe’s nascent cannabis industry is gathered here today, to map strategies around the potential and challenges of cannabis as alternative medicine,” said VP Chiwenga.

The Ministry of Health and Child Care has issued more than 60 medicinal cannabis licences and the Ministry of Lands, Agriculture, Fisheries, Water and Rural Development has issued more than 25 hemp permits.

VP Chiwenga said Government is concerned that the majority of the licences and hemp permits remain moribund due to a few critical factors that investors want cleared before committing investment funds.

“Government is committed to developing an Internationally competitive Zimbabwean cannabis industry that is predicated on integrity and policy consistency.

“As one of the pioneers on the continent, the Zimbabwean medicinal cannabis sub-sector has faced teething challenges.

“My office has worked closely with the Cannabis Industries Association of Zimbabwe since 2019 to iron out a number of the initial bottlenecks that would have seen the early death of the industry,” said VP Chiwenga.

He urged local health practitioners to equip themselves with the knowledge required to further homegrown research on medicinal cannabis.

President of the association Mr Peter thanked Vice President Chiwenga for his thorough responses to issues falling under his purview.

He gave an example of a 20-page document they submitted to the VP a day before their engagement with him, on issues afflicting the cannabis industry.

To his surprise the VP had read through the whole document as he seemed quite knowledgeable to the issues they were discussing contained in their 20-page proposal they had left at his office a day earlier.

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