GREEN Party leader Peter Sinkamba has advised government to adopt his business model for the cultivation of cannabis for export and medicinal purposes, saying it is a big economic driver if well implemented.

Sinkamba has further asked government to allow the Green Party to drive the agenda of the cannabis business considering that he and his team had studied the idea for over six years and gathered a lot of knowledge, which could be applied successfully.

In an interview, Sinkamba said cultivation of cannabis could be a big turnaround for all sectors of the country, including peasant farmers, who according to him, still faced challenges with the electronic voucher system of input distribution, which he said government was failing to sustain.

“From our end as the Green Party, we think that the cannabis business must be beneficial to all sectors of the country. At cultivation level, it must benefit the youth in terms of employment. We have 10 million youths, who are not in employment, but who are energetic and can be extremely productive to the nation; we can absorb not less than two million youths into the marijuana cultivation countrywide, according to our business model. Secondly, we have the peasant farmers, who year-in year-out, we have failed to graduate them from the current dependency on government through FISP in terms of fertilizer support, and year-in year-out, you have to give them a number of bags. This could be a big turn around for them, at least 250,000 small-scale farmers and peasant farmers can benefit from this scheme at production-level,” Sinkamba said.

“Moving to processing level, because there are various categories; at processing level, again, we can create processing industries for various aspects because our business model looks at the medical cannabis and industrial cannabis. For medical cannabis, you can create the pharmaceutical industries where pharmacies can come in to participate with the chemists and those that have done chemical engineering. A team of that cluster of scientists can now participate at the extraction of various chemical components of cannabis, extracting them depending on their uses. So, that would be one sector benefiting at one level as experts. Then, we have also the production of paper, production of bio-diesel, production of cosmetics, again another group of scientists that have done production management, mechanical engineering being involved. This is another huge sector, which would be able to absorb not less than 100,000 (youths) countrywide.”

He said the export of cannabis would be facilitated under the auspices of Medical Stores Limited.

“Our model looks at using the Medical Stores agency as an institution that must be the ones to look at the export portfolio for medical cannabis because medical cannabis, once it is processed even the handling is supposed to be done within the framework of the UN Convention on Narcotics of 1961, amended in 1992. So, that should be the framework, which should be able to govern the export of medical cannabis. The other aspect is security, this where we are going to have Zambia National Service (ZNS) being used as the institution to manage all the production and processing aspects so that we have these higher security zones, who are going to manage this, again, so many youths will be employed there. Then, the people that have done finance issues, for them it’s to look at the monetary aspect. Once we have brought the money from our exports of various commodities, then they can also manage our finances. So, really, for us we are looking at financial inclusion of everyone in the nation to be able to run this whole thing. Otherwise, this business is a big driver of economic development, that’s our view as Green Party,” Sinkamba said.

He also urged government to allow the Green Party to handle the cultivation of cannabis.

“So, really, for all these things to work, you need a business model, and the best thing government can do is to adopt the Green Party business model and we, as the Greens, to drive the agenda because we know what we are talking about; we have studied this for over six years and that is a lot of knowledge, which could be applied to ensure that this thing is a success. But at the moment, government has not said anything, I think government has heard loud and clearly from the people, who have demanded that I must run this programme on behalf of the Zambian people. But it’s again the government to accept or reject. So, we’re still waiting to hear on government’s position, but otherwise, the message has been very clear to them from the public countrywide,” said Sinkamba.

Last December,, Cabinet approved the Ministerial Technical Committee comprised of the Ministers of Health, Justice, Defense, Home Affairs, Finance, National Development Planning, Commerce, and Agriculture for the cultivation, processing and export of cannabis for economic and medicinal purposes.

The Ministry of Health was further directed to provide overall leadership and coordinate the issuance of licenses for the cultivation, processing and export of cannabis for medicinal purposes under the Dangerous Drugs Act.