Zimbabwe President Commissions $27 Million Medical Cannabis Plant

The president of Zimbabwe on Wednesday reportedly commissioned a farm and processing plant for medical cannabis cultivation worth $27 million.

Business Insider reports that President Emmerson Mnangagwa “commissioned the medical cannabis farm, and processing plant at Mount Hampden set up by Swiss Bioceuticals Limited in West Province, Zimbabwe…to produce cannabis (mbanje or dagga) for medical and scientific purposes,” saying in a speech that “the rapid development of the processing plant, which adds significant value to the crop, was a testimony of the success of the Government’s engagement policy and the confidence Swiss companies and investors had in Zimbabwe and its economy.”

“This milestone is a testimony of the successes of my Government’s Engagement and Re-engagement Policy. It further demonstrates the confidence that Swiss companies have in our economy through their continued investment in Zimbabwe. I extend my profound congratulations to the Swiss Bioceuticals Limited for this timely investment in the medicinal cannabis farm, processing plant and value chain, worth US$27 million,” Mnangagwa said in a speech on Wednesday, as quoted by Business Insider.

Business Insider reported that the president “added that the investors should follow the company’s lead and open their business to support the mantra that ‘Zimbabwe is Open for Business and be ready to generate foreign currency generation for the country.”

The announcement of the farm comes nearly three years after the country did away with its laws banning the cultivation of cannabis as it looked to produce a new crop to export. A year before that, in 2018, the country legalized medical cannabis.

The repeal of the ban is part of a concerted effort by Zimbabwe to pivot from its longtime major exporter, tobacco, of which it is the leading producer on the continent.

As tobacco exports bring in far less money to Zimbabwe farmers and producers than they used to, many in the country’s industry have shifted to cannabis production.

In reporting on the repeal of the cannabis ban in 2019, Bloomberg noted that the country was seeking “to boost export revenue and offset the global campaign against tobacco, a major source of foreign currency,” with Zimbabwe officials saying at the time that it would initially be focused on hemp and medicinal cannabis.

Earlier this week, Reuters detailed the country’s still-young medical cannabis industry and how farmers there have adapted.

Reuters, citing Barclays analysts, reported that the “global cannabis industry could be worth $272 billion by 2028,” and that “Zimbabwe’s Finance Minister Mthuli Ncube has said the country wants at least $1 billion of that—more than it currently makes from its top agricultural export tobacco.”

Reuters spotlighted a 35-year-old Zimbabwean grower named Munyaradzi Nyanungo, who has been issued one of the 57 cannabis operating licenses in the country.

“We stand to sell cannabis at $25 per kilogramme, which is five, six times more than what a good tobacco crop can give you. We are actually sitting on a green gold mine,” Nyanungo told Reuters.

Nyanungo has a U.S.-based partner in “King Kong Organics, which supplies seed and other inputs, purchased the greenhouses under an off-take agreement that will see the company buying the cannabis crop for processing.”

On Wednesday, Mnangagwa, the country’s president, “also urged other investors with permits to quickly operationalize their permits and licenses for the benefit of the economy in general and people in particular,” according to Business Insider.

“I challenge other players within the medicinal cannabis sub-sector to speedily set up their enterprises, focusing on value addition and beneficiation. It is disappointing that since 2018, only 15 out of the 57 entities issued with cannabis operating [licenses] have been operational,” Mnangagwa said, as quoted by Business Insider.

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Malawi Joins Zimbabwe in Switching from Cultivating Tobacco to Cannabis

Malawi has just followed Zimbabwe in reaffirming an intended agricultural switch from tobacco to cannabis. Both countries are doing so for economic survival as the long-term viability of tobacco is giving way to another crop entirely.

There are several interesting aspects to this trend beyond the transition to greener and more sustainable economies post-COVID. It has long been accepted that the cannabis legalization revolution would start to spread like wildfire once there were a couple of regions or countries that took the plunge. This phenomenon can be clearly seen within the domestic United States as more and more states move towards legalizing both medical and recreational use of the drug. While it is a mantra also repeated by those who wish to stymie reform, there is little anyone can do to stop what appears to be an escalating global trend.

Recently, however, as of the last month, this phenomenon is going global and involving whole regions. In Central America, for example, both Honduras and Nicaragua just declared their interest in at least examining cannabis cultivation within a matter of weeks. 

So have Zimbabwe and Malawi.

In Africa, this is far more interesting just because of viability—as well as the momentum South Africa is clearly creating throughout the region, if not the entire continent. By declaring that cannabis is an important tool of economic development, they are clearly upping the stakes. In South Africa, officials have begun planning work on a so-called “cannabis hub” that will focus on everything from medical cultivation to phytoremediation. That is clearly influencing other countries regionally.

Both Malawi and Zimbabwe first announced that they were beginning to move from tobacco to cannabis cultivation during the pandemic. Now, such intent seems to be kicking into higher gear in both countries, as South Africa initiates a global call for participants in their ambitious project.

Like Zimbabwe, Malawi earns the vast majority of its foreign income from tobacco—in the case of the latter, contributing to over 60% of its economy. According to President Lazarus Chakwera, cannabis could be just the “exit strategy” from tobacco that the country needs. 

The country does not border either South Africa or Zimbabwe but sits just north of them and shares a common border with Mozambique (where cannabis is still illegal).

What this Means Regionally and Globally

The fact that cannabis reform is being increasingly touted as a form of development as well as foreign investment in multiple countries in Africa at this point (see also Morocco) is an interesting twist for several reasons beyond the issue of reform itself.

The first is that geopolitically, this strategic focus will attract more Western than Chinese capital. China has been a huge investor in the African continent for much of this century, investing in roads and other major infrastructure desperately needed here. Yet cannabis reform is clearly off the political table in China proper. While the country remains the world’s largest producer of hemp, it remains a crime to even possess hemp seeds on an individual basis. Southern Africa’s new interest in cannabis, for this reason, is unlikely to attract Chinese interest—but it certainly is garnering a lot of attention in the West.

Beyond geopolitical issues, the reality remains that the consumption of cannabis is growing globally—and for industrial, medical, and recreational purposes. Yet, as seen clearly in Europe, the expense of the regulated market is still contributing to high prices that both insurers and consumers don’t want to pay. A strong African cannabis market will play a huge role in bringing down this cost—just as it did for tobacco.

This does not, of course, mean that this new focus is a panacea—in Africa, South or Central America—or even western countries like Greece who have had the same idea.

However, what this new interest in cannabis as a form of both economic development if not environmental remediation seems to signify is that the world is moving towards legalization because of an inevitability that now cannot be held back or stopped. 

It is also a clear sign that the era of Prohibition is crumbling—and not just country by country, but now by regions.

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Zimbabwe Tobacco Industry Considers Switch to Cannabis

In Zimbabwe, tobacco exports brought the country $794 million in 2020, down from a high of $927 million in 2016. Tobacco is the country’s third most valuable export crop after gold and nickel matte. That said, it is also facing a rather existential threat as the industry faces challenges brought about by COVID, a drought and a shift in production heading for South Africa.

In contrast, authorities are already planning for cannabis to be the country’s largest cash crop with earnings well over a billion dollars within the next five years. Last year, the country exported 30 tons of industrial hemp to Switzerland with another 20 tons due to be exported this year.

Tobacco farmers are now being encouraged to switch to cannabis. The hope is that at least a quarter of their income is derived from cannabis sales in just the next three years.

57 companies have now received their licenses from the Zimbabwean government to grow cannabis.

A Change for Black Farmers?

One of the biggest problems Black farmers face in Zimbabwe in the current market, no matter what they cultivate, is that smaller farmers are being consistently squeezed by intermediaries who are the only chance they have to get their wares to market.

Since 2000, Black farmers have taken over former white farms after Robert Mugabe’s supporters seized white-owned plantations. This temporarily brought the tobacco farming industry in the country to a standstill. However, since 2008, the industry has recovered.

The problem that the vast majority of farmers in Zimbabwe still face, however, is access to the global market as well as capital and supplies necessary to plant and harvest their crops. Many smaller farmers are struggling to make a living in an environment where they must go into debt for seed, fertilizer, and equipment to plant and harvest their crops with contracted sellers who also literally pay pennies on the dollar for crops they sell at auction bound mostly for China.

This infrastructure was created when banks pulled out of the sector because the government has never formally transferred the land it seized from the previous owners to the farmers who currently plant crops on this land. The contracted sellers, often financed with Chinese funds, are able to get top dollar for the crops, but they pay farmers next to nothing.

This is gradually changing. According to Agriculture Minister Anxious Masuka, tobacco farmers received 60% of the sales price for their tobacco in 2020, up from 50% in 2019.

While many farmers have been released from their obligations under this scheme on the tobacco side of the equation, there is nothing currently to suggest that a cannabis cultivation scheme would not create exactly the same problem.

Social Equity Still Scarce in Global Cannabis Industry

The terrible reality that still exists, globally, in the cannabis industry, is that no matter how lucrative it can be for a small minority of firms, most of these are founded and run by white people. Even in nations like the US and Canada, about 10% of executives are non-white. Indeed, according to recent data, both women and ethnic minorities continue to lose ground in the legitimizing industry globally.

In the developing world, the problem is even starker in large part because of historical inequities and the general unavailability of even loans to establish certified plantations.

This means that unless this problem is rectified, no matter how much focus governments put on cannabis cultivation and production as an “economic development tool,” the vast majority of such economic development, if not sales, will still go to a small (and mostly white, male) minority.

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Rwanda Begins Cannabis Production

The Republic of Rwanda has quite a few interesting features. It is located just a few degrees south of the equator. Bordered by Uganda, Tanzania, Burundi, and the Democratic Republic of the Congo, it is a highly elevated piece of sovereign real estate, picturesquely located where the Great African Lakes and East Africa meet.

It has also joined other African nations, particularly in the south, in beginning cannabis reform that will lead shortly to production. Like Lesotho, the geography is also mountainous, however maintains the distinction of being the most densely populated African country. The population is both young and rural with the average age of Rwandans at the shockingly low number of 19 years.

Work in Progress

The beginning of reform happened last summer when the country announced its plans to commence cultivation in June, when a framework for the legal industry (from cultivation, processing, distribution, and use) was released.

According to local news reports, the Rwanda Development Board has also now designated 134 hectares for cannabis production. The RDB also announced that it has received a great deal of interest in exporting the product and processed versions thereof. 

Per a statement released by the agency, “RDB has been working with other government stakeholders to assess proposals received. The government of Rwanda set a rigorous process to select companies that have or are partnering with companies that have previous experience in the production of cannabis for medical and therapeutic reasons. The assessment process has different stages. So far 5 companies are in the advanced stage.”

No license has been issued yet.

Tragically, the country is also following a trend that has been seen in other countries (like Greece, the UK, and Spain). Namely there will be limited reform for companies, but solely for the purpose of export income. Europe is of course at the top of the list of destination countries.

The local law governing the consumption of cannabis is a large fine ($540 to about $5,000). This is a huge amount of money in a country where the average monthly income is around $200. Prosecution can also involve jail time for between three and five years.

The Great Export Market

Here is the new face of the global industry. Countries need cash, especially now when every government, globally, is sucking for income and economies are disrupted by both a pandemic and a war with global implications. Cannabis reform is one place where countries from Africa, Central America, and South America are starting to march with an increasingly accelerated pace. 

Production in such places costs a fraction of what it is other places—even with proper GMP (or good manufacturing procedures) standards in place. 

Beyond this, there are increasing numbers of countries (e.g. Portugal) who will charge such producers a huge fee per gram of such product to “convert” it to GMP, even if grown outdoors and per a certification of GACP (a sovereign standard for cultivation practices for other crops).

It is clear at least to leaders in such economies that cannabis represents a golden opportunity, particularly given the continued intransigence to reform that includes domestic cultivation in most of the world.

However, the more countries enter the cultivation and processing game, the lower prices will fall. There will be a race to the bottom, and fast, in a market where prices are already so high that only a privileged few can afford them, even in Europe.

Regardless, hemp and cannabis are increasingly valuable crops for other reasons too. This starts with industrial and environmental uses as well as the ability to provide a much cheaper and widespread medication for conditions that people in developing economies still do not have ready access to.

Even the most cynical world economist will see good in that. 

It also appears that many parts of the world are also on track to create sustainable agriculture, and for all the right reasons.

Therefore, there is cause to celebrate that another African country has joined the cannabis club.

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How We Got Here Today – The Origin and Spread of Cannabis

420 looms, so why don’t we look at the origin and spread of cannabis? The plant’s been around, so it’d be nice to know how we got here today. Like a lot of domesticated plants, cannabis has an origin point. It started out as a wild plant in parts of Central and East Asia. Humans […]

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California to Kenya: Dr. Norms Partners with Cannabis Now to Support Project Bake Initiative

Siblings Roberta Wilson and Jeff Koz never planned to get into the cannabis business, but sometimes that’s just the way the cookie crumbles. 

Wilson and Koz’s edibles brand, Dr. Norms, started as an offshoot of Wilson’s non-medicated cookie company, Audrey’s, named after their mother. With the addition of cannabis to their mom’s cookie recipes and plenty of hustle, the duo made their mark in California’s early medical marijuana market and quickly transitioned to the state’s booming adult-use industry. 

True to its familial roots, Dr. Norms is named after Koz and Wilson’s father, who worked for years as a Los Angeles physician. Interested in more than just baking cookies with cannabis, in 2018, Dr. Norms expanded into the hemp-CBD wellness market following the legalization of low-THC hemp products in the U.S. Farm Bill

Dr. Norms founders Roberta Wilson and Jeff Koz as children.

“Audrey’s Cookies honored our mom and her amazing healing ways through pharmacology and cookies and Dr. Norm’s honors our dad, who was an old school medical practitioner with generations of families as patients,” Wilson told Cannabis Now. “We literally use our mom’s recipe for our flagship chocolate chip cookie.”

Keeping in line with both of their parents’ past work in healthcare, the siblings behind Dr. Norms are carrying the patient-first mindset that made them successful in the medical marijuana market to the adult-use and CBD industries. With a focus on precise dosing, close-knit customer relations, and of course, great-tasting baked goods, Wilson and Koz have shaped their edibles brand in their parents’ image.

“A doctor wouldn’t say, ‘take however many Tylenol you think is right,’” Koz added. “Consumers understood proper dosing with medicine and with alcohol – and Dr. Norm’s wanted to do the same for cannabis.”

Cookies & Philanthropy

With streamlined manufacturing and distribution, access to high-quality cannabis distillates and a growing customer base, the Dr. Norms team has been able to expand their horizons beyond baked goods and into philanthropy. 

Just one year transitioning into the hemp-CBD wellness market, Dr. Norms partnered with Cannabis Now and anti-poaching nonprofit, The Elephant Cooperation, to start a new charitable endeavor called Project Bake. With the assistance of the Kenya-based Elephant Cooperation, Project Bake will help fund the Vinmark Bakery and Amson Education Centre, located in the Mathare area of Nairobi, Kenya.

Project Bake Dr. Norms partners with Cannabis now cookie

“Dr. Norms is one of the top brands in the edibles space,” said Eugenio Garcia, Publisher and Founder of Cannabis Now Magazine. “Their commitment to community and quality made them the perfect partner to not only provide a yummy new product, but to do some good for others at the same time.”

To help support the initiative, Dr. Norms and Cannabis Now released a brand new Pecan Shortbread cookie in Project Bake-branded packaging in both THC and hemp-CBD varieties. A portion of every sale goes towards Project Bake. 

Vinmark Bakery and the Amson Education Centre currently serve 281 students in Mathare. Through a close symbiotic relationship, the bakery feeds the children and uses profits from community sales to support and supply the school. With additional financial injections from Project Bake, Vinmark will be able to upgrade their facilities and install new baking equipment that will hopefully create more efficiency and ramp up profits. This will lead to more opportunities for new infrastructure and instruction expansion for the children at the primary school.  

Wilson and Koz are already laying the groundwork for a visit to Mathare. If all goes as planned, they will deliver the Project Bake funds by hand, share some of their family cookie recipes, and with luck, pick up a few baking pointers of their own.

“The idea was to earmark funds from the sales of this cookie to help refurbish the [Vinmark Bakery’s] kitchen,” Koz said. “Our hope is to go down there for a visit, bring them a nice check, and share each other’s baking secrets. We want to help them create a sustainable revenue model for their area.”

You can find the Dr. Norm’s and Cannabis Now Project Bake THC cookies at licensed dispensaries across California. You can also order the equally delicious CBD version in all 50 states from the company’s direct-to-consumer website, Dr. Norm’s CBD.

The post California to Kenya: Dr. Norms Partners with Cannabis Now to Support Project Bake Initiative appeared first on Cannabis Now.

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TELL US, what’s your dream destination?

The post Travel Vicariously With These International Cannabis Features appeared first on Cannabis Now.