The writer is a lawyer and a passionate farmer who has been following closely discussions around the developments in our agricultural sector.
A lot of literature has been produced in respect of the land reform programme, the land tenure issues, among other land disputes.
The writer has decided to look at one crop which farmers invest in will change immensely the agricultural landscape of Zimbabwe.
The Government of Zimbabwe gazetted Statutory Instrument 218/20 Agricultural Marketing Authority (Industrial Hemp) Regulations, in September 2020.
These regulations were enacted for the purpose of regulating the production, procurement, distribution, possession, sale, provision and transportation of industrial hemp.
This paper will focus on some of the most critical aspects involved in the production and disposal of hemp particularly the different types of permits offered, the issues of possession of industrial hemp as well as the harvesting process and the process after harvest and penalties for non-compliance with the regulations. According to the regulations, industrial hemp means the plant cannabis sativa and any part of the plant including the seeds thereof and all derivatives, extracts, cannabinoids, isomer, acids, salts and salts of isomers, whether growing or not with a delta-9 tetrahydrocannabinol concentration of not more than 0.3% on a dry weight basis.
There are three types of permits that regulates the growing, researching or dealing in hemp. The permits awarded under the Regulations include the general cultivator's permit, a research and breeding permit and the industrial hemp merchant's permit.
The general cultivator's permit authorises the holder to cultivate and process hemp for marketing purposes and to sell the hemp produce. The General Permit holder activities are limited to only those stipulated in the permit. Any other activity that falls outside the confines of the activities permitted in the permit cannot be exercised.
The second permit is the research and breeding permit. The permit authorise the holder to procure hemp of specified cultivars, and varieties that are not approved cultivars, the cultivation, for research purposes only, of new cultivars and varieties of hemp that are not approved cultivars, the breeding, for research purposes only, of new cultivars and varieties of hemp, the conduct of research, under the supervision of a research institute approved by government, into the suitability of cultivars and different varieties of hemp.
Lastly the industrial hemp merchant's permit entitles the holder to supply and procure industrial hemp within Zimbabwe.
This permit also gives the holder the right of processing of industrial hemp into specified hemp product and the possession of industrial hemp for the purposes of the activities specified in the merchant permit.
The holder of this permit is not allowed to grow hemp directly, and can only contract farmers to do it.
The application for any permit requires quite a bit of detail. The application is made to the Authority (Agricultural Marketing Authority) in duplicate, accompanied by a fee, three copies of a plan of the cultivation area proposed, including the geo-coordinates, proof of citizenship, permanent residence or exemption, and a declaration that the permit applicant is familiar with the provisions of the Agricultural Marketing Authority Act.
But that is just the start, the application has to be accompanied by a security clearance, for the authorised person in charge, the responsible person in charge, the alternate responsible person in charge, the individual or an individual permit or each officer and director of the company for a company application.
Further, the applicant has to describe, in detail, how they propose to keep records that ensure compliance with the regulations, allow the AMA (Agricultural Marketing Authority) to audit those records, and ensure that orders and inventories of industrial hemp can be reconciled, that is no leakages from the legal marketing.
General cultivator's permit shall be valid for a period of one year, while the research and breeding permits are valid for three years whereas industrial hemp merchant's permit shall be valid for a period of one year but regulations provide for the renewal thereafter before their expiry.
The Regulations sets out the general conditions for cultivating. Amongst those conditions the permit holder is mandated to only cultivate industrial hemp at the premises identified in the permit or notified to the Authority and to make sure that the cultivation area must not be less than one hectare unless it is for research purposes and to make sure that good farming practices are adhered to.
Before the commencement of the cultivation period the permit holder is to notify the Authority on the type of hemp product intended to be produced, the variety of seed to be sown, the source of seed, the premises at which industrial hemp is to be cultivated and the GPS coordinates of the propose cultivation area.
The regulations also provide that an area where hemp is cultivated should be monitored at all times by a personnel and should be well secured so as to prevent unauthorised entry, unauthorized access and only access by persons whose presence in those areas is required by their work responsibilities.
Growers have to follow good farming practices and the AMA can inspect when it likes to ensure this. The regulations provides for requirements for compulsory tests at approved laboratories and the AMA can in any case order a lab test at any time. Hemp that flunks the tests can be ordered destroyed, although there is an appeal process.
Every hemp cultivator is mandated by the regulations to employ a responsible, who has the requisite training, experience and technical knowledge in the cultivation of hemp for the purposes of assuring the quality of the hemp before it is available for sale.
After the harvesting period, the permit holder shall ensure that the flowering heads (including seeds) of any industrial hemp plants remaining in a cultivation area after the harvesting of industrial hemp are destroyed within seven days after the harvest has taken place.
Further, any industrial hemp plants subsequently found growing in a cultivation area after the harvesting of industrial are destroyed within seven days of being found.
After harvest, any permit holder who has to have the hemp transported should make sure that the hemp is protected from theft and spillage.
The regulations further provides for the transportation of the hemp. A permit holder who wishes to transport industrial hemp from premises at which industrial hemp is authorised to be cultivated under the permit should make sure that it is protected from theft and spillage while in transit.
Industrial hemp that is found growing in an area that is not a location specified in a permit, having been planted by a permit holder or by any of the permit holder's employees or agents or that has spread to the area from a location specified in the permit issued to the permit holder shall be destroyed. The destruction under these circumstances has to be done in front of five people that include a superintendent or above of the police plus senior officials of ZIMRA, Medicines Control Authority of Zimbabwe, the Justice Ministry and the AMA or Agriculture Ministry.
Having said that, a breach of any of the regulations shall result in the cancellation of permits along with a jail sentence of four months, a level four fine or both.
In conclusion thereof, it can be noted from the discussion above that hemp is certainly not like any other plants.
Its cultivation, processing transportation is heavily regularised. Industrial hemp cultivation can boost the economy and if it is not strictly regularised taking into consideration its nature, it could be used for means other than those intended
The content of this article is intended to provide a general guide to the subject matter. Specialist advice should be sought about your specific circumstances.