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Zimbabwean company sows first legal hemp seeds

The Zimbabwe Industrial Hemp Trust sowed six varieties of industrial cannabis, saying it chose a prison yard out of "convenience" as the property already had tight security.

A senior army representative sowing some of the first industrial hemp crop in Zimbabwe at the Harare Central Prison in the capital, on 11 October 2019. Picture: AFP

HARARE - A Zimbabwean company planted the country's first authorised hemp crop on Friday at a prison in the capital Harare after the production of industrial cannabis was legalised last month.

The Zimbabwe Industrial Hemp Trust (ZIHT) sowed six varieties of industrial cannabis, also known as hemp, saying it chose a prison yard out of "convenience" as the property already had tight security.

"This project is the first of its kind in the history of our country," Agriculture Minister Perence Shiri told guests at the launch in Harare central prison.

"This pilot project will provide essential knowledge or information for the successful production of this crop. The benefits that will be derived from the production of industrial hemp are enormous and varied," he said.

Zimbabwe legalised the production of cannabis for medicinal or scientific use last year. But it was only in September that the government legalised production of cannabis for industrial use.

Unlike marijuana, hemp contains a low count of psychoactive substance THC, while the plant requires minimal care and is adaptable to grow in most climates.

It can be processed into various products including cloth, ropes, bricks, paper and fibreglass.

The Harare-based ZIHT was the first organisation to be issued with a cannabis licence in the southern African country.

The company's founder, dentist Zorodzai Maroveke, said she discovered the opportunities in cannabis production when she bought a dress made from hemp fabric while studying in China.

The health ministry grants growers licences valid for up to five years, but they are limited to strict cultivation conditions.

Although cannabis use was previously illegal in Zimbabwe, it is widely used in traditional medicine to treat conditions like asthma and epilepsy.

Possession of recreational cannabis remains illegal and carries a jail sentence of up to 12 years.

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