Updated on January 25, 2019. Medical content reviewed by Dr. Joseph Rosado, MD, M.B.A, Chief Medical Officer
For a short time in 2017, medical marijuana patients rejoiced when Zambia’s Minister of Home Affairs announced that the Narcotic Drugs and Psychotropic Substances Act, Cap 96 included provisions for cannabis cultivation licenses to be issued for qualified individuals. Up until this time, most government officials had been against administering a medical marijuana program.
Unfortunately, the only catch is that those who wished to cultivate medical marijuana would need a license from the Ministry of Health. In May 2017, Zambian Minister of Health Dr. Chitalu Chilufya made a statement saying he had no intentions of issuing any licenses. Although this upset many private citizens and even others in government, his staunch stance ensures that at this time, no one will be able to receive medical marijuana treatments.
Even though Dr. Chilufya has put a stop to any momentum for a medical marijuana program within Zambia, he does admit the plant has the potential to treat many different medical conditions. In his 2017 statement, he named a few symptoms and conditions that may qualify patients for cannabis treatments if the plant were allowed to be used medicinally:
Although Dr. Chilufya admits some credibility for medical marijuana, he believes there is no research to suggest it is better than the medications already available in Zambia.
Marijuana is illegal in Zambia whether it’s used recreationally or medicinally, so patients found using cannabis medications will be subject to the full extent of the law. However, if licenses for the cultivation of medical marijuana were permitted, individuals would have to follow the government’s protocol. This includes:
Patients cannot access medical marijuana in Zambia, and it is also illegal to obtain cannabis medication from another nation and transport it into the country. The government has severe penalties for those caught using, selling or trafficking marijuana.
Even so, many illegally cultivate cannabis and sell it on the black market. The government is consistently performing raids on illicit marijuana fields and confiscating the plants that are found. Despite this, the illegal sale of cannabis is a thriving business within Zambia, and it’s the number one illicit substance in the country.
There are currently no protections for medical marijuana patients within Zambia. Since the government has not established a medicinal cannabis program, patients caught possessing any form of the plant are subject to the same consequences as recreational users. Zambian law has harsh penalties for the use, possession and cultivation of marijuana, especially considering many nations throughout the world are decriminalizing its use.
For the simple act of possessing marijuana, those caught could go to prison for up to 15 years, depending on the circumstances of their case.
Even though the medical marijuana issue is at a stalemate within Zambia, patients should not give up hope. Nations around the world are adjusting their legislature to allow the therapeutic use of cannabis. And since the Zambian Ministry of Health sees its value in treating many different conditions, they are sure to follow suit.
With that in mind, be sure to check back regularly with MarijuanaDoctors.com for updates on international cannabis laws in Zambia and beyond.