Zimbabwe has become the second African country to legalize marijuana for medical and scientific purposes.
Dr David Parirenyatwa, the country’s health minister, said in a government notice that individuals and businesses would be able to apply for licences to cultivate cannabis for medicinal or scientific use.
The five-year licences will clear also clear growers to possess, transport and sell fresh cannabis, cannabis oil, and dried product.
Production and possession of marijuana, known as mbanje or dagga in southern Africa, was previously punishable by up to 12 years in jail. Recreational use will remain illegal.
Applicants for the licenses must submit detailed plans of their proposed production site and yield, according to the government notice published in the Harare Herald on Saturday.
Individuals applying for licenses must be Zimbabwe citizens or residents or have a waiver issued by the minister.
Those previously convicted of drug offences will not be allowed to apply.
The tiny state of Lesotho issued Africa’s first license for medical marijuana production last year.
A South African court last year ruled that private use of marijuana was legal, but the government appealed the ruling at the Constitutional Court.
Zimbabwe has been debating legalization of medicinal cannabis production as the government seeks new revenue streams for its agricultural economy.
Last year Obert Mpofu, the then investment minister, said a Canadian firm had applied to the government for a permit to produce the drug in planned special economic zones designed to lure foreign investors.
Zimbabwe is already one of southern Africa’s biggest tobacco producers, exporting much of its crop to China.
Africa is second only to the Americas in terms of production and consumption of marijuana, according to the United Nations’ 2017 World Drug Report.