South Africa’s decision to decriminalize cannabis could start a domino effect that sees the cannabis industry soar in the region.
This week the country’s Constitutional Court ruled that South Africans now have the right to grow cannabis and consume it in their homes. That is music to the ears of pro-marijuana advocates in neighbouring countries like eSwatini (formerly Swaziland), Malawi, Zimbabwe, and Mozambique, who hope these countries will now be persuaded to cash in on a regulated cannabis market.
Pro-marijuana lawmakers in eSwatini, a landlocked country totally surrounded by South Africa, believe a regulated cannabis market could triple the nation’s GDP. It is renowned on the global scene for a much-loved sativa strain with a sweet, citrus flavour and fast-acting effects. Swazi Gold grows with ease in eSwatini’s mountainous countryside and it is a favourite with breeders.
Malawi Gold is another popular strain and, while cannabis is illegal in the country, the government takes a hands-off approach. Along with fish and tea, it is one of Malawi’s three biggest export products. Cannabis production is technically illegal in Mozambique, but authorities are said to turn a blind eye to it.
Earlier this year, Zimbabwe followed Lesotho – another landlocked country engulfed by South Africa – in becoming the second African nation to legalize cannabis, although it is restricted to medicinal use. The government tried to legalize cannabis farming too, but it had to backtrack after an outcry from conservative factions. Yet it may now become emboldened by South Africa’s decision and have another crack at it. Plans are already afoot to build a $10 million medicinal cannabis production facility in Mazowe, Zimbabwe.
Africa accounts for more than 50% of the world’s vegetative land and it has the potential to become a multibillion-dollar export market, so many legislators are keen to capitalize.
South Africa has the largest population and the biggest agricultural area in the region, but several of its neighbours are more advanced when it comes to marijuana cultivation. These countries often look towards South Africa as a trailblazer and a regional economic leader, and they could further relax their attitudes towards cannabis in the wake of the Constitutional Court’s decision.
The United Nations estimates that 10,000 tons of cannabis are produced on the continent of Africa each year, 25% of global production, and it could soon become a lucrative, regulated industry.