National Democratic Congress president Chishimba Kambwili says government should rethink the Marijuana cultivation license fee so that every Zambian should benefit.
Government recently legalized the cultivation of marijuana for medical purposes, but one needs US $250,000 to obtain a license.
Speaking to journalists at a briefing, Wednesday, Kambwili said the move was progressive but the high license fee would prevent many Zambians from participating.
“The decision has been long overdue. I personally I am one of the people that supported Peter Sinkamba when he just started talking about commercializing and introducing Marijuana for medicinal and export purposes. You and I know that even as we speak today, there are certain illegal people within that grow and export marijuana and earn foreign exchange for this country. We have a problem with the licensing regime this government wants to introduce unless they want to tell us that they are targeting certain individuals that we know who they want to be involved in this business, clouding out the poor people. I think we would fight it tooth and nail! We want this marijuana to benefit all Zambians including a peasant in Mporokoso, including a peasant in Chibombo, including a peasant in Western Province. I mean if you are going to say the licensing fee is going to be $250,000 how many Zambians can afford?” Kambwili asked.
“So right from the beginning, you can see that people will start saying that this is targeted for the rich people to continue being rich. This, we are not going to allow! My appeal to the Cabinet and the President is that please rethink the licensing fees, they must be affordable for the poor people. If you want, you can segment it, you say licensing for so much hectarage is so much. So that an ordinary villager in Mporokoso must be able to cultivate marijuana for export.”
He said he would not allow foreigners to hijack the cultivation of marijuana.
“Having said this, we also have to come up with guidelines to avoid the abuse of marijuana by those that are going to cultivate it. But clouding the poor people by putting exorbitant licensing fees will not be allowed. And I will call upon all the NGOS, all the reasonable politicians to stand up to this exorbitant licensing fee that is being proposed. We want the licensing to be as low as K50 for the people. Yes, government must raise money out of this but they must be reasonable to enable the poor people also to move from poor to middle income. And this is one product that can reduce poverty in this country. Because the growth of marijuana doesn’t even need fertilizer,” Kambwili said.
“I’m reliably informed that when you smoke it and you just throw a seed while people are smoking, it will germinate without you knowing. So why don’t you want the poor people to participate? In some cases, this thing is like $18 million dollars per tonne…so why do you want to cloud out the poor people? And I think buy and large, we should not allow foreigners to come and cultivate marijuana. We want the Zambian people to create a fund as government where people can borrow because it is a lucrative business that will pay back.”
And Kambwili appealed to government to find lasting solutions to reduce the price of mealie meal.
“I appeal to the government, we have to find a solution to the mealie prices. I am reliably informed that in Mufulira, the bag of mealie has now gone to K200. Once we increase the production of maize, the price of maize will go down and the price of mealie meal will come down. But if you have ministers without a plan, going to lie to the people that in the next three weeks the price of mealie meal will come down when the price of mealie meal continues to go up, it is unacceptable. Bring down the price of mealie meal. You are not going to mitigate the hunger situation by giving out mealie meal. The price of mealie is still high, it must come down. People are suffering! Surely, how can you jump from K70, K60 a bag to K200 within two months? This calls for serious reflection for those who are in government to make sure that mealie meal prices reduce,” said Kambwili.