Luangeni PF member of parliament Charles Zulu says the growing of cannabis for medicinal purposes will earn Zambia billions in revenues and revamp the economy.

And Zulu has maintained his position on the need to bring back deputy ministers in the proposed Constitution Amendment Bill No. 10 of 2019.

In an interview on government’s proposal to legalize the cultivation, production and export of marijuana, Zulu expressed optimism of the crop’s massive potential to earn the country huge revenues and called for widespread support to implement it.

“I have been sensitizing people in my constituency and even in Parliament and people were saying, ‘maybe Zulu is smoking daga (weed) now because he is promoting daga smoking,’ but at the end of the day, let us look at the bigger picture: this type of cannabis is not one that you grow on an open space like in gardens, it needs heavy investment. And mind you, we are not talking about cannabis for recreational purposes, we are talking about cannabis for export. And wherever it goes, it would be used to make medicine, which will help even those people who are condemning it now. Maybe because of ignorance and not knowing what is involved, they are demonizing it,” Zulu said.

“For me, this development has been long overdue. In fact, other countries started a long time ago. It is a very progressive decision by government although I have heard from certain sectors of society by those who don’t have the knowledge of how this project will be done and are commenting negatively. I think all of us must commend government for the job well done because if we want to build our economy, we have to come up with new ideas. You can imagine that even that stuff you call ‘Black Mountain’ in Kitwe today, a long time ago, it was known as rubbish. But because of the new technology and new ideas, that stuff is now of value. So, equally, the problem with cannabis is that those people who are running pharmaceuticals have been demonizing cannabis because the oil from cannabis cures a lot of diseases. So, those running pharmaceutical businesses would want you to be buying drugs from them.”

He, however, appealed to the government to consider making the license fee for the cultivation of cannabis affordable.

“People are talking about the fees, yes, that one has to be discussed, but this project needs heavy investment; you need to build tunnels; you need airplanes for transportation. And mind you, it’s also monitored by the United Nations. It’s a multi-billion dollar business. Of course, government should look at the license fees because they are on the high side, but when you look at what will come out of it, it will be so huge,” Zulu added.

“In fact, for me, I would encourage government to do the first two or three licences for free and then look at the money that government will get out of this business. For this business, you first build tunnels and then you grow the crop inside the tunnels and put cameras all over. It requires tight security. It should be sealed in order not to allow for cross-pollination. No one goes in and out just like that because it is a drug, which can be abused. You need professionals to deal with it. I remember when government used to give mining licenses anyhow, people used to get licenses and then they fail to use their licenses and sometimes sell them…I can assure you that with 40 hectares of land and you cultivate it properly, we can make billions within this two year-period, this country’s economy can change.”

He also stressed the need to sensitize the Church on the importance of the drug to people’s lives.

“So, let us go for it. This is not a political issue, it is about the economy of our country. I think the Church has to be sensitized also because they are looking at the negative side of cannabis,” Zulu said.

And Zulu reiterated his position on the need to reintroduce deputy ministers as contained in the controversial Constitution of Zambia (Amendment) Bill 10.

“I already gave my position on the need to bring back deputy ministers. There is nothing wrong about it. The only reason people are giving is that there is no money to pay them. I have been a deputy minister before and I know how overwhelmed ministers get. The people that are actually facing the music are ministers themselves. They are supposed to defend this. But anyway, since they are quiet and the party said, ‘we don’t want deputy ministers’…Look at Zimbabwe, their economy is worse than ours, but there are deputy ministers there; South Africa; Malawi and others have deputy ministers. So, what is wrong with us? And over my dead body, I won’t change my position. No matter what you tell me, I still strongly support that deputy ministers must come back and that’s my opinion,” said Zulu.