Yo, my name is Dan and I’m here to tell y’all about the booming black market for cannabis in Africa. Just like how Colombian weed is making its way into Venezuela, and Cali’s bud is being smuggled to states like Maine and even countries like Thailand, the African continent is seeing some serious illegal cannabis trade, too.
Now, Mozambique is an interesting case in Southern Africa because they banned both medicinal and recreational cannabis. But get this – some wealthy Mozambicans, like doctors, are still getting their hands on some high-end, processed cannabis products from their neighbour, South Africa.
According to social scientist Armando Bana, there are two different levels of access to weed in Mozambique. The rich folks have it easy, with prescriptions or orders for high-quality processed cannabis products. Meanwhile, low-income people might get put behind bars just for having a gram of raw weed.
Despite the ban, tons of impoverished Mozambicans are growing weed anyway. They’re cultivating it in the fertile eastern coastal and mountainous western regions to make money for basic necessities like food, healthcare, and education. These growers usually get around the law by paying off officials.
But if you get caught using medical cannabis commercially or exporting it across borders in large quantities, you could be facing up to seven years in prison. Still, doctors in Maputo say there’s a lot of demand for high-end medical cannabis imports like lotions, edibles, and oils. It’s mainly used among the middle class as both a recreational drug and medicine.
So how do wealthy Mozambicans get their hands on these fancy-schmancy products? They turn to South Africa – which isn’t just Africa’s most industrialized country but also has the biggest cannabis industry on the continent. South Africa has invested tons of money into both growing and processing weed and is projected to have an industry worth $22 billion by 2026.
Gilberto, a supplier of high-end cannabis products like chocolates, oils, and lotions in Mozambique’s capital, said that they’re all coming from South Africa. But all the transactions are happening on the down-low. Gilberto works as an “importer,” getting the goods from South Africa and then distributing them to doctor’s offices, fancy pharmacies, and gift shops in Maputo.
But even though there’s some serious risk involved, the potential profits make it all worth it. For instance, a 500ml cannabidiol product that helps with back pain costs only $4 across the border in South Africa. Gilberto sells the same product secretly in Mozambique to his network of doctors for almost $9 – that’s a big profit!
Here’s the irony though – while weed is technically illegal in Mozambique, having high-end cannabis products has become a status symbol among the middle class. Thanks to a gas boom amidst widespread poverty in the country, more and more people are able to buy fancy weed products. The products are sought after both for medicinal reasons and as symbols of social status.
According to Dilone Feza, who founded the Maputo Corruption Watch Forum in Mozambique’s capital, high-end cannabis products are seen as superior gifts capable of elevating people’s social status at private parties held by the wealthy. To get these products across borders into Mozambique, border guards get bribed to look the other way.
The Mozambique government doesn’t tolerate any cannabis products crossing its borders since it’s all illegal. Any guard caught taking bribes to let cannabis through would face strict disciplinary action.
Gilberto says that it’s easier for upper-class Mozambicans to access expensive processed cannabis products than it is for low-income people to get them. That’s partly because buyers who go to doctor’s dispensaries for these products are high-status individuals like lawmakers and CEOs. Gilberto even knows of a minister who uses CBD to get rid of a migraine.
But here’s what’s messed up about this whole situation – the wealthy can get high-end cannabis products easily, but the poor can’t. Recent research has shown that medical cannabis can effectively manage severe conditions like arthritis and muscular pain. So anti-corruption activist Feza advocates for legalizing medical cannabis in Mozambique. She argues that it’s not fair that only the rich can quickly get high-end medical cannabis while the poor can’t. Legalizing cannabis would let poor Mozambican patients access cannabis oil for conditions like foot pain at public clinics with a doctor’s prescription and would decrease prices and taxes.
So there you have it, folks – the complex and conflicting weed industry in Mozambique. While some folks are getting rich off the illegal trade, others are struggling just to make ends meet. The call for legalization is getting louder, but only time will tell what the future holds for weed in Mozambique.
And if you’re interested in the global movement of cannabis, check out how Cali’s bud is taking over the world right now!