Medical Marijuana Laws in Zambia

Updated on January 30, 2019.  Medical content reviewed by Dr. Joseph Rosado, MD, M.B.A, Chief Medical Officer

In 2017, Steven Kampyongo, Zambia’s Home Affairs Minister, clarified that the country’s Narcotic Drugs and Psychotropic Substances Act, Cap 96 allows for the cultivation of medical marijuana to those who are approved by the Ministry of Health.

For a brief time, patients throughout the country rejoiced at the prospect of finally receiving medicinal cannabis treatments. But unfortunately, that all ended in May of the same year when Minister of Health Dr. Chitalu Chilufya stated he had no intention of issuing such licenses.

This means that although the law has a provision for medical marijuana within Zambia, until the government ministers agree, any use of cannabis is illegal. Those caught possessing cannabis within the country, even for medical purposes, are subject to harsh penalties.

Medical Marijuana Use Laws in Zambia

According to section 9 of Zambia’s Narcotic Drugs and Psychotropic Substances Act, citizens can apply to the Ministry of Health for a license to cultivate medical marijuana. Although this law has been in place since 1994, few people knew it existed. Additionally, the government did not have a framework for issuing these types of licenses.

The law was brought to public interest in February 2017, when the Honorable Minister Kampyongo issued his statement to Parliament stating medical marijuana cultivation licenses were permissible. Although the Minister of Health put the kibosh on that, vocal advocates like the Zambia Medical Association continue to pressure the government to change their policies on this matter.

How Zambia’s Medical Marijuana Program Would Work

If Dr. Chilufya changed his stance and began allowing individuals to apply for cultivation licenses, this is how the country’s system would work:

  • Citizens would need to fill out an application to the Zambia Medicines Regulatory Authority (ZAMRA)
  • The Ministry of Health would determine a fee
  • After reviewing their application, the ministry would approve or deny a cultivation license

Marijuana Criminalization in Zambia 

Marijuana is highly illegal in Zambia. The Narcotics Drugs and Psychotropic Substances Act prohibits the possession, cultivation and sale of cannabis, and there is currently no special provision for medical marijuana patients because the Minister of Health refuses to issue cultivation licenses. The penalties for any illegal activity associated with marijuana usually involve imprisonment for a term not exceeding 10 to 15 years.

Legal Limitations of Zambia’s Medical Marijuana Program

Cannabis is the number one abused substance in the nation of Zambia. Many believe this is because the country has not legalized a medical marijuana program for its citizens. However, those who are against using cannabis medicinally, like the Minister of Health, believe allowing it would only increase the number of people who illicitly use marijuana.

Dr. Chilufya has stated that the country has enough approved medications that treat the same conditions as those that medical marijuana helps. Until medical marijuana science grows to the point that its benefits are irrefutable, Chilufya has no intentions of approving cannabis cultivation licenses.

Protections for Zambia’s Patients and Doctors

Because all forms of cannabis are illegal within Zambia, there are no legal protections for patients and doctors who want to use or prescribe the plant.

Stay in the Know With

Citizens throughout Zambia are hoping that the government, especially the Minister of Health, changes its stance on medical marijuana. If any updates or amendments are made, turn to to find out about them. We keep our information current so you always know what’s going on in the world of international cannabis laws.

We also offer other resources you can use to stay informed about this important subject. Learn about the benefits of cannabis using our handy guide, or check out our blog for informative topics and answers to commonly asked questions.