Use of cannabis for medicine under scrutiny

By Memory Chamisa

THE use of cannabis for medicinal purposes was the topical issue as academia, research and health experts met in Harare this Wednesday for the cannabis round table discussion.

During the discussion, more research, funding and clinical trials were cited as key in promoting the use of cannabis for medicinal purposes.

The Minister of Health and Child Care and Vice President General Retired Dr Constantino Chiwenga was represented by his Deputy Dr John Mangwiro who stressed the need to come up with strategies for conducting clinical trials according to international best practice.

“We have so many intellectuals, Doctors, reseachers who can come up with safe cannabis medicines. Zimbabwe was second in Africa after Lesotho to legalise the use of cannabis in medicinal purposes, but ever since nothing in terms of clinical trials has been done. Also, the issue of value addition is very important, yes we gave our more than 60 licences and more than 25 Hemp permits by the Ministry of Agriculture, but none of those companies are in a position to give an end product from cannabis.

 “Other countries like Australia, America have made head way in terms of research and end products. Cannabis in medicine has been said to cure cancer, Alzheimers and we as the government need to come up with policies that ensure a vibrant and profit making Industry is established, just like the tobacco industry where exports of millions of dollars are realised,” he said.

Zimbabwe Industrial Hemp Trust chief executive officer, Dr Zorodzai Maroveke emphasised the economic value of cannabis production.

“Hemp has many end products like clothes , building materials,and food. If it can produce all these end products then more investment is needed for it to become an industry that can compete with others like mining and agriculture. We applaud the milestones recorded so far and great potential is there especially on the medical front as we learnt today during this round table meeting. The expertise we have, but what is needed is more research and clinical trials like what other countries are doing. This also enables us to value add the product,” explained Maroveke.

Since 2018, only 15 out of the 57 entities issued with cannabis operating licences have been operational, but not much headway has been made in clinical trials.

Earlier this year, President Emmerson Mnangagwa commissioned a medical cannabis farm and processing plant in Mount Hampden set up by Swiss Bioceutical Limited.