Green Party president Peter Sinkamba says proper policy implementation in the administration of Marijuana is needed if the country is to fully benefit, economically.

And Sinkamba says instead of limiting the legalisation of marijuana to medicinal purposes, government should explore the plant’s industrial benefits as well.

Meanwhile, UPND spokesperson Charles Kakoma says this move simply creates another looting channel for government officials.

Government has officially approved a proposal to legalize the production and export of Marijuana for medical purposes only.

Cabinet, at its 22nd special sitting held on December 4, 2019, gave approval, in principle, to the Ministerial Technical Committee for the cultivation, processing and exporting of cannabis for economic and medicinal purposes.

According to Chief Government Spokesperson Dora Siliya, the Ministerial Technical Committee will comprise of Ministers of Justice, Defence, Home Affairs, Finance, National Development Planning, Commerce, Trade and Industry, Agriculture and Health to manage the process and implement the new policy.

Further, the Ministry of Health is set 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, Cap. 95.

Commenting on the development in an interview, Sinkamba, who has been an advocate of legalizing marijuana since the formation of his party, warned that lack of proper policies and a correct legislative framework may result in the country not benefiting from the drug.

“It depends on the policy direction. You know, you can have gold and diamonds in the country, but cannot in anyway benefit the nation. Like the case we have in Congo DRC and what we saw in Sierra Leone and Liberia; if the policy positions are not correct, we may have this innovative arrangement, but provided the policies are not going to be properly (implemented), we may not yield the intended results. We have to have a proper policy for farmers’ position, which should be able to benefit the people because, otherwise, it may not yield the intended results,” Sinkamba said.

“So, maybe, we have to look at the legislation that has been put in place to see how it brings on board the sensitization of various key players, including the subsistence and commercial farmers so that the benefits may cascade downwards and not only benefit a few individuals or a few rich companies. If we do not manage it properly, it will end up like the gold and diamonds in Congo DRC and Sierra Leone.”

And Sinkamba argued that government should not only confine Marijuana to medical purposes.

“As we had advocated as, Green Party, we had indicated that if we can have this programme running under the Zambia National Service (ZNS) through out-grower schemes where we are going to not only benefit the commercial, but also the subsistence farmers, and also cascade to it industrial purposes so that instead of focusing more on medicines, but also looking at other industrial benefits, so that we expand other benefits not only confining it to medicinal purposes. If the policy is there, we are not going to have any abuse,” observed Sinkamba.

Meanwhile, in a statement, Tuesday, Kakoma said the move to legalize marijuana was made in bad faith.

We have learnt with surprise that the PF cabinet has approved a proposal to legalise marijuana in Zambia.

“According to the report, the PF government has pegged the licence for marijuana at $250,000 dollars or K3,750,000 to be issued by the Ministry of Health annually and the production of the crop will be supervised by Zambia National Service(ZNS). We smell a rat over this scheme. We think that the decision has been made in bad faith. Whenever the PF government takes a controversial decision, it is always without consultations and underpinned by the desire to loot the country’s meagre resources through corruption. Examples abound in the PF administration. When the PF government banned the trade in mukula tree, many people thought it was good to protect the country’s natural resources. The PF crooks had a hidden agenda,” Kakoma stated.

“Today, small scale mukula traders are languishing in poverty while the authorities who banned the trade are swimming in dollars from mukula exports. The PF government has been banning and lifting the ban on the export of maize whenever it suits them…In as much as we understand that the legalisation of the marijuana may generate revenue for an ailing economy, it also has very bad social consequences. There will be widespread abuse of marijuana resulting in the economy being controlled by drug lords. Examples in Latin America where drug lords control the country are there for us to learn from. Ordinary citizens do not benefit from the trade in marijuana.”

He stated that ordinary people would not benefit from marijuana.

“In Zambia, if marijuana is legalised, ordinary people will not benefit.This will be a reap and slap in the face of an ordinary Zambian small scale farmer in shang’ombo, Vubwi, kaputa and other places. Only big companies and proxies of the PF will be allowed to produce and export marijuana. The ordinary people who may be excited by this development will continue to be arrested and prosecuted for cultivating and smoking marijuana. It will be a copy and paste of the game ranching business which only benefits the already rich people and foreigners. Lastly, we want to ask: should a Christian nation be growing marijuana?” asked Kakoma.