[By Charles Tembo in Ndola and Masuzyo Chakwe in Lusaka]
THE PF is broke and wants to make money from any sector regardless of how immoral and unethical it is, the National Democratic Congress has charged.
NDC Copperbelt chairman Chipoka Mulenga says the government has only legalised marijuana because it is broke.
He said the PF government never serves the interests of the local people and that just like the mukula trade, marijuana would be a preserve of a few Zambians and foreign nationals.
“The next thing we’ll hear is them legalising prostitution so they can collect taxes from the vice. Corruption has already been institutionalised. Honestly, how can they peg the licensing of marijuana at over K3 million? How many Zambians have that money besides the government officials themselves?” Mulenga asked. “This should have been a preserve of the local peasants who cultivates and later sell to commercial buyers for exporting. The government should have encouraged outgrower schemes to make Zambians have control of revenue coming from marijuana and could have helped control the illicit trade on the black market.”
He said the “reckless” PF government was again favouring foreign nationals to be more wealthy out of Zambia’s natural resources at the expense of the locals.
“As NDC on the Copperbelt Province, we demand that the licensing fee be revised and a policy made that only Zambians must be engaged in marijuana cultivation with the help of Zambia National Service guards,” said Mulenga. “For once, the PF must be patriotic as opposed to being punitive and corrupt as we have come to know them.”
And Zulu legalisation of marijuana had been the call by voices of reason for a long time.
“However, there will be more questions than answers on the exciting development. The reported registration fee of $250,000 already makes it certain that ordinary peasant farmers who have been sacrificed by the Drug Enforcement Commission are automatically out of the lucrative business,” he said in a posting on his Facebook page.
“Just like the Mukula trade, marijuana cultivation will only be for the rich and the foreigners. Even the poor Rastaman who has constantly been jailed and called convict will not be part of the equation. Indigenous methods of production of the best local stains will not be a trademark or patent of the indigenous Zambians but of big multinationals who will use every rule to take over and control production.”
Zulu said the medical profession would be at risk of harbouring corrupt elements in cases of medical prescriptions and growth for medicinal use.
Zulu said cartels of the usual suspects would be the owners of the marijuana business as opposed to the local small-scale farmers who are struggling with crops like maize.
“Our dream for legalisation was that of a win-win situation for everyone, especially the peasants, who are currently not beneficiaries of the country’s resources like minerals and wildlife. Peasants should be allowed to cultivate and even sell to the government,” he said.
He said the government should empower small-scale marijuana farmers with the required capital and the necessary technical know-how on the business aspects of marijuana trade.
“On the legislative side, it’s about time marijuana laws in Zambia were revised. It is also worth noting that recreational use of marijuana is a huge tourist attraction for any destination. Besides, even if marijuana was legalised for recreational use, the numbers of those that use it will not change because they use it anyway,” he said.
“Civic education and the natural control measures on marijuana should also be part of the legislation agenda, especially amongst the youth. We should move away from the incarceration model where users are criminalised, dehumanised and convicted. Prisons need to be decongested by freeing all marijuana convicts. Innovation in the production of marijuana products like beauty products should be made a lifeline for young and budding entrepreneurs.”
Zuku said the decision to legalise growth of the herb should be commended and supported.
He said it might even win the PF a few votes.
“As for me and on a lighter note, I’m ready to be the ‘Zambian Marijuana Ambassador to the UN,” said Zulu.