Zimbabwe increased the THC limit for industrial hemp from 0.3% to 1%, making significant changes for the African country’s hemp industry.
In 2018, Zimbabwe became the second nation in Africa to legalize medical cannabis and cannabis production for medical and scientific purposes.
Zimbabwe Independent reports that the THC level increase makes significant changes for CBD manufacturers, who will now be able to produce the entourage effect combined with other cannabinoids.
The amended bill, called the Criminal Law (Codification and Reform) Amendment Bill, 2002 is proposing the amendment of section 155 of the Criminal Law (Codification and Reform) Act [Chapter 9:23] (hereinafter referred to as “the Act”) to remove industrial hemp from the list of dangerous drugs.
“By the insertion of the following definition,” the bill reads, “‘Industrial hemp’ means the plant cannabis sativa L and any part of that plant, including the seed thereof and all derivatives, extracts, cannabinoids, isomers, acids, salts and salts of isomers, whether growing or not with a delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol concentration of not more than one per centum on a dry weight basis.”
Zimbabwe, like many other countries, is technically in conflict with the United Nations international drug convention, which still dictates global drugs policy over the past 60 years.
However, by amending the legislation and providing clarified definitions as outlined in the Amendment Bill 2022, Zimbabwe is establishing an environment in which a wider range of line mixes and ultimately hemp varieties may be produced and supplied.
An increased THC level gives industrial hemp farmers a bigger trove of options, allowing them to select genetics worthy for the production of a broader range of markets.
This is particularly important, Zimbabwe Independent notes, because studies have shown that certain genetics that combine CBD and THC produce better fiber qualities and also an entourage effect with synergistic therapeutic benefits.
As new CBD products are currently being tested by the Medicines Control Authority of Zimbabwe, they may be more effective and therefore more appealing to consumers.
The Tobacco Research Board (TRB) was directed to “reform and restructure by 2025,” making itself a center for national research, development, and innovation in tobacco and alternatives.
The country developed an objective to advance agricultural profitability and development in Zimbabwe. Industrial hemp was among the crops of interest. TRB has been testing and developing hemp varieties that are acclimated to Zimbabwe’s climatic conditions over the last few years.
The 0.3% THC requirement is an arbitrary quantity—mirroring THC limits in the U.S.—that makes it difficult for breeders to create and grow varieties with other desirable synergistic properties.
Five Years into Medical Cannabis in Zimbabwe
Zimbabwe legalized medical cannabis in 2018, making it among the first countries in Africa to do so.
In 2019, Zimbabwe abolished its ban on cannabis cultivation, which set the stage for the country’s farmers to begin cultivating industrial hemp to export. That same year, the country issued the first license to a medical cannabis company to begin cultivation.
In May 2022, Zimbabwean President Emmerson Mnangagwa commissioned a $27 million medical cannabis farm and processing plant to be run by Swiss Bioceuticals Limited in West Province, Zimbabwe.
“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 the announcement of the plant.
The Medicines Control Authority of Zimbabwe said on July 26, 2022 that it would begin accepting applicants from cannabis and hemp producers, manufacturers, importers, exporters, and retail pharmacists, in a seismic shift away from tobacco.