10 October 2015
Cannabis is new cash crop for African farmers as its use grows across the continent
African nations consider legalized marijuana
The cultivation and use of marijuana is rapidly rising across Africa as farmers, hit by low commodity prices, increasingly see the drug as a cash crop.
Pressure for legalizing marijuana is increasing in many African countries as legalized pot in the U.S. and Uruguay leads the way.
“At the moment, farmers choose to cultivate marijuana over traditional crops because it commands a far higher market price on the black market both at home and abroad,” Zambian Green Party President Peter Sinkamba told Anadolu Agency.
In Lesotho, cannabis is the country’s third largest source of foreign income, according to the UN Development Program. The landlocked kingdom, which is encircled by South Africa, is responsible for 70 percent of the cannabis entering its neighbor’s territory.
The Nigerian National Drug Law Enforcement Agency reported late last year that a large number of Nigerian farmers had abandoned growing food and other cash crops for cannabis. The previous year, the agency arrested more than 8,000 marijuana farmers.
Zambian farmer Antonio Mundulu, 51, told Anadolu Agency that he was lured into cultivating marijuana by quick earnings.
“I choose to grow marijuana over other crops for easy money,” he said. “Marijuana is not only highly profitable but also has cheap labor and high demand among young people.”
The World Bank expects agriculture prices to average 11 percent below 2014 levels this year, a figure that has been revised downward from 9 percent in April. This makes cultivating marijuana far more profitable than traditional cash crops such as maize, according to the bank’s Commodity Markets Outlook released in July.
Although there are no statistics on marijuana production in Africa — the cultivation and use of the drug is illegal in throughout the continent — UN statistics from 2005 show Africa accounts for about 25 percent of world production.
Legal marijuana in America
Legal marijuana sales in the U.S. approached $3 billion in 2014, according to the U.S.-based consultancy Arcview Market Research. The drug remains illegal under U.S. federal law but has been legalized for medical or recreational use in 23 states and the District of Columbia.
In Colorado alone, sales have boomed to $70 million per month, despite sharp limitations on how the drug can be bought and sold.
“In Denver, the only places you can really legally smoke or vaporize weed is your private property,” University of Denver law professor Sam Kamin said in an interview with the Denver Post newspaper. “You can’t do it in the park, at the bar, on the sidewalk or inside a marijuana shop.”
Kamin said the state is considering allowing the creation of special clubs where marijuana can be smoked although such places would not be allowed to sell alcohol.
However, in all the states to have legalized the drug, anyone over 21 can now smoke, grow and possess cannabis.
Some states allow cultivation of small quantities at home while others forbid it. Some allow it to be consumed in bars or restaurants as others only permit smoking on private property.
In July, the White House stated its opposition to legalizing marijuana and the states’ laws that make consumption possible.
The model for legalizing marijuana use, however, continues to be copied around the world and clearly has supporters in Africa who are likely to keep up the pressure for making marijuana legal.