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Zimbabwe makes play for ‘superplant’ hemp

Experts say the plant has over 25,000 uses, making it a superplant with something for everyone.

SINCE the Zimbabwe government announced in April that Zimbabweans can now apply for licences to grow cannabis for medical and research purposes, moves are on to set up legislation to regulate the crop.

The southern African nation followed in the footsteps of Lesotho, the tiny nation which last year became the first in Africa to legalize cultivation of medical marijuana.

Zorodzai Makovere, who founded the Zimbabwe Industrial Hemp Trust (ZIHT), believes Zimbabwe should also be looking at other areas of the plant, which she says offer more opportunities.

“There is a global momentum on cannabis as Zimbabwe has a huge competitive advantage to the countries that have set the trend so far. So I think government has seen it fit because they are not only looking at the economic benefit but also the medicinal benefits that come not just with the medicinal cannabis but also the industrial cannabis,” she told The Source at a Cannabis Round Table in the capital.

While industrial hemp and marijuana come from the same species of plant, hemp is cultivated to produce small amounts of tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), the chemical compound in cannabis responsible for a euphoric high.

Hemp can be turned into or used in many areas such as construction materials, clothes, food and in the production of insulation materials. Other uses include paper, plastic for functions ranging from single-use to automotive components while in textiles is said to be several times more sustainable than cotton and cheaper to produce.

Experts say the plant has over 25,000 uses, making it a superplant with something for everyone.

“There are economic opportunities that come for our country as well as employment creation among the many economic factors you can think of. I think it’s good timing because in the region alone there is (Lesotho), South Africa and Malawi moving in that direction. But these countries also have no regulations in place so this gives Zimbabwe a head start even though these countries have done a lot of research which we are lagging behind,” said Maroveke.

Davison Gomo, an economist who heads the African Leadership Convention said it was critical that the country evaluates and creates the right framework for the production of the plant.

“In this society everyone is going to be looking for any solution and any material that plays a role on furthering either economic development or providing solutions to problems faced by citizens. In this case, whether looking at medicinal cannabis or industrial hemp, the potential that basically is available to us as a people and as an economy is large,” he said.

“The medicinal cannabis — although science is still evolving — to a larger extent it is very clear that it can provide solutions to various serious medical conditions. If you look at industrial hemp, is it not true that you can get a lot of by products from this especially since the world through science, research and development is discovering new solutions to various needs for our industries.” – The Source