Medical Marijuana in Zambia

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

The production, sale and possession of cannabis in any form, medical or recreational, is illegal in the nation of Zambia. Even though it’s an illicit substance, many citizens use it and face serious punishments by doing so. Some believe this is because medical marijuana has not been legalized. However, other ministers in government think if it were authorized for medical use, abuse of the drug would increase.

In early 2017, there was some potential progress. Home Affairs Minister Steven Kampyongo made a statement saying the cultivation of medical marijuana was legal under section 9 of Zambia’s Narcotic Drugs and Psychotropic Substances Act. However, those who would want to take advantage of this would have to get a special license from the Ministry of Health.

Unfortunately, Dr. Chitalu Chilufya, the Health Minister, stated in May of the same year that he has no intention of issuing such licenses. He does not see that medical marijuana has any additional benefit than the medicines already approved in Zambia. This, for the moment, puts a halt to any potential medical marijuana programs within the country.

Medical Marijuana Program in Zambia

Many patients throughout Zambia are vocally supportive of a medical marijuana program. The country’s Green Party believes the cultivation and manufacture of cannabis could be an added source of revenue. Farmers are willing and waiting to start production if and when the Minister of Health approves licenses for the cultivation of medicinal cannabis. But until he begins issuing licenses, medical marijuana remains illegal within the country.

History of Medical Marijuana in Zambia

Cannabis is not indigenous to Africa. Most believe it came to Eastern African nations through contact with Indian and Arab traders in the region. At the time, individual tribes inhabited Zambia. The traders who shared the plant with the locals regarded it as sacred and espoused its magical, spiritual and medicinal properties. Because of this, the drug was initially used by elders, traditional healers and chiefs for these types of practices.

As regular people began using the plant, it’s properties became widespread knowledge. Once the Republic of Zambia was established, drug laws categorized marijuana as an illegal narcotic. Today, the cannabis illegally grown in Zambia is prized for its purity and potency. It’s the number one abused drug in the nation. Every year, thousands of people go to prison for using or cultivating the plant.

Possession and Cultivation of Medical Marijuana in Zambia

Possession of any form of marijuana is illegal, even if a patient uses it medicinally. There are severe penalties for those who are found to be possessing the plant.

The big debate among citizens and politicians is whether the Ministry of Health should issue licenses for the cultivation of medical marijuana. Although the country’s narcotics law does allow for this, the Minister of Health has taken it upon himself to put the kibosh on this and refused to issue licenses. Vocal supporters of medical marijuana say it is unlawful for Dr. Chilufya to deny the people this option when it has been lawfully legislated.

Qualifying Conditions for Medical Marijuana in Zambia

If the Ministry of Health were to issue licenses for the cultivation of medical marijuana, Dr. Chilufya acknowledges the plant has been used to treat several different conditions effectively. In his May 2017 statement, he mentioned the following conditions and symptoms that have shown marked improvement when medicinal cannabis was administered:

Even so, Dr. Chilufya believes the current drugs available in Zambia are more effective than medical marijuana and safer.

Getting a Prescription for Medical Marijuana in Zambia

If the Ministry of Health allowed individuals to apply for medical marijuana cultivation licenses, they would be expected to follow a few criteria. First, they would need to fill out an application to the Zambia Medicines Regulatory Authority (ZAMRA). Then, they would have to pay a fee determined by the Ministry of Health. Only after their application was reviewed would the ministry approve a cultivation license.

Medical Marijuana Penalties in Zambia

Even though many people believe that Zambian law has made provision for the cultivation of medical marijuana, there have been no licenses issued by the Ministry of Health. This means that all cultivation, selling or possession of cannabis is illegal within Zambia. Those caught by authorities will be subject to serious punishment. According to the Narcotic Drugs and Psychotropic Substances Act, Cap 96, the penalties include:

  • Possession: Imprisonment for a term not exceeding 15 years
  • Trafficking: Imprisonment for a term not exceeding 25 years
  • Cultivation: Imprisonment for a term not exceeding 10 years, a fine of no less than 500 units or both

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Many Zambian citizens hope the Ministry of Health and Zambia’s government will recognize the therapeutic benefits of cannabis and adjust their laws and practices accordingly. When this happens, be sure to check back with We keep up with international cannabis laws to give you the most up-to-date information possible.

You can also learn more about using medical marijuana by searching our resource guide. Or, check out our blog for answers to the most commonly asked questions.