Lesotho, one of Africa’s poorest nations, now has a portal for an economic rebound through marijuana. The country was the first on the continent to legalize the process of cultivating and selling medicinal cannabis last year, and now growers are seeing opportunity, the BBC reports.
The landscape of fertile soil and a high altitude provides an ample and plush environment for marijuana to thrive, thus giving growers like Mampho Thulo an edge in amplifying her business cultivating the cash crop in her village of Mapoteng.
But the small-scale growers are fighting an uphill battle against the illegal marijuana trade that still exists. Biting infrastructure and licensing costs that come with the legal trade requirements is making it difficult for them to keep their businesses afloat.
“This is how we earn a living… [as] the few jobs that are available are for educated people. So we rely on marijuana because we don’t have an education,” Thulo told the BBC.
While growing medicinal marijuana has been greenlit, Thulo does grow it for recreational drug use which is still illegal. However the 48-year-old and mother of five, doesn’t fear getting arrested.
“Yes I know it’s illegal to plant marijuana,” she concedes.
“My children are in school because of marijuana. When I sell some, I’m then able to pay school fees.”
In the states, culturally, anti-marijuana sentiments have flipped drastically over the last decade, causing states to reconsider their prohibition of the drug. According to a Gallup study released in October, two out of three Americans support marijuana law reform, and more than half the country has already legalized it in some form.
Lesotho aims is working to capitalize on marijuana in more ways than one.
“We want to export finished products. So the plan is to cultivate and manufacture pharmaceutical products, nutritional products, cosmetics, and extraction of active pharmaceutical ingredients,” says Masello Sello, legal adviser at the health ministry, the department responsible for issuing licences.
Other’s countries are now following suit behind Lesotho. Zimbabwe too has also legalized the cultivation of marijuana. Other African governments are said to be considering the matter.