The argument over the consumption of some known narcotic or psychotropic substances purely for medicinal purposes is still raging across the United States, since a few states have legalized this practice.
However, it is always difficult to implement such controversial practices.
Once the consumption is legalized, the drugs have to be produced, for which the corresponding plants will have to be cultivated. This is the issue that is rocking a country like Zambia.
Zambia also has a law that prohibits the cultivation or farming of cannabis or any other vegetation that can be used to extract these substances.
However, there is an exemption given to farmers who are cultivating cannabis for medicinal purposes.
Whether they’re small, large or even corporate entities, they have to obtain a license from the Ministry of Health for growing cannabis in the country after paying a fee.
Arrest of 12 Small Scale Farmers
Now, the recent arrest of 12 farmers in the Mambwe district for unlawful cultivation of the cannabis crop has created quite a stir in the region.
The Drug Enforcement Commission (DEC) is the nodal agency to oversee and control the activities of farmers who cultivate cannabis on their lands.
When they find any such crop during their regular rounds, they check if it’s being done under a license or if it is illegal.
The moment they find it to be illegal, they arrest the farmer and confiscate the vegetation.
Those arrested will be produced in a court of law for the routine legal formalities.
The DEC will seek the help of the local law enforcement agencies to frame the actual cannabis-related charges on each of these farmers and, based on the merit of these charges and the evidence produced, the court will pass the orders.
This process may take time. If found guilty, they will have to pay a fine and spend some time in prison as well.
What is to be noted is that, according to the DEC, all these farmers have engaged in the cultivation of cannabis, and it is illegal.
The quantity of cannabis vegetation confiscated from each of the farmers varies from 110 to 150kgs to 375 to 390kgs to even one case where the quantity specified is 1.07 tons.
The total quantity of fresh cannabis vegetation involved with these arrests goes above 2 tons.
In certain cases, small-scale farmers have been charged individually or as couples.
Obviously, the DEC officials must have done their homework and were aware of how they operate.
There are also other arrests made by the agency, as per the press release issued by the DEC, but those are related to trafficking in cannabis.
The Lure of Making a Fast Buck
Ultimately, the intention behind these small-scale farmers getting involved in planting and growing the cannabis in Zambia—or any other country or region for that matter—is to make money.
But the government and corresponding agencies responsible for the controlled growing of the vegetation are also under pressure to enforce the laws, just to meet the minimum requirements of producing cannabis for medicinal purposes.
The fact that there is a licensing mechanism that takes care of any anomalies must also weigh in with the farmers.
The worst affected in the process are the farmers whose land-holding in itself is small; other crops may not be very highly profitable for them.
Now, having been apprehended and produced in court, their future and the future of the families that depend on them, appears bleak.
It is again the government that has to come to the aid of these marginalized people within different communities, to show them the legal path.
There are also other ways to control this practice of growing cannabis illegally.
That includes keeping a vigil on the middlemen who contact small farmers and lure them into the act of committing these illegal activities like cultivating cannabis. Otherwise, there may not be an end to these arrests in Zambia.