Eswatini’s Move: Legalizing Medical Cannabis to Transform Economy and Healthcare

In a significant development, the African nation of Eswatini, formerly known as Swaziland, has taken steps towards legalizing medical cannabis, aiming to regulate the industry and reap benefits for its economy.

Reportedly, King Mswati III and the Eswatini government have introduced legislation concerning medical cannabis, with hopes of curbing illicit sales and tapping into tax revenues. Alpheous Nxumalo, a spokesperson, emphasized the need for such measures to combat the growing black market, which has deprived the government of taxes and hindered economic growth. The legalization is viewed as an opportunity to foster economic development and empower the nation.

Presently, Profile Solutions stands as the sole approved legal cannabis cultivator in Eswatini, marking a significant shift from the past.

The move to legalize medical cannabis would mark a departure from a statute dating back to British colonial rule in 1922. Dr. Thys Louren, representing Occupational Health Eswatini, highlighted the potential transformative impact on healthcare and the economy, advocating for a holistic approach to benefit patients, communities, and the nation’s economy.

E. Nathi Dlamini, CEO of Business Eswatini, stressed the urgency of aligning with the global medical cannabis industry to attract investment and generate employment opportunities, addressing a pressing need within the country.

Local perspectives echo the necessity for legalization. Merchants like Maqhawe Tsabedze underscore the livelihoods dependent on illicit cannabis trade, expressing hope that decriminalization would offer stability and protection from police raids.

However, concerns persist, particularly among farmers reliant on illegal cultivation for sustenance. Some fear that legalization may introduce formidable competition from well-funded corporations.

Eswatini’s socio-economic landscape underscores the importance of this decision. With over a million inhabitants, many grappling with the HIV/AIDS epidemic, the cultivation of cannabis has served as a means of survival, particularly for vulnerable populations like elderly women supporting orphaned grandchildren.

Notably, Eswatini’s cannabis industry has garnered international attention, as evidenced by a documentary by Strain Hunters in 2013, shedding light on its unique genetics and cultivation practices.

This move aligns with broader trends across Africa. Zimbabwe authorized medical cannabis sales in 2022, while South Africa passed a bill in 2023 decriminalizing cannabis cultivation for personal use.

In conclusion, Eswatini’s decision to legalize medical cannabis reflects a multifaceted strategy to address economic challenges, transform healthcare, and adapt to evolving global trends in cannabis regulation.


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