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Wednesday, May 31, 2023

The rise of black market cannabis migration channels

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Much like Colombian cannabis seeps through VenezuelaAnd the cannabis went on the black market in California to states like Maine and even countries like ThailandThe African continent is seeing the same illicit cannabis market channels spread overnight.

Mozambique is an unusual case in South Africa, given its strict ban on medical and recreational cannabis. Despite the country’s strict ban, wealthy Mozambicans such as Doctors informally and profitably import high-quality processed cannabis products from neighboring South Africa.

According to Mozambican sociologist Armando Bana, the current situation results in a two-tier scenario for cannabis. On the other hand, wealthy people have easy access to high-quality processed cannabis through prescriptions or orders. On the other hand, low-income people may face jail time simply for possessing a gram of raw cannabis.

Premium hemp

Although Mozambique has banned all forms of cannabis use and possession, the plant is widely cultivated by millions of poor Mozambicans. There are vast areas for cannabis cultivation in the fertile eastern coastal regions and the mountainous western regions. According to sociologist Armando, rural cannabis farmers depend on small crops to earn money for necessities such as food, health care, and education. These farmers usually evade the oversight of law enforcement by offering bribes.

However, according to Mozambican sociologist Armando Bana, individuals caught using medical cannabis commercially or exporting large quantities of the crop across international borders could face up to seven years in prison. Despite this, acquaintances of Armando’s doctor claim that there is a high demand for high-end medical cannabis imports, such as lotions, foods, and oils. This high-end cannabis is used for recreational and healthcare purposes among Maputo’s burgeoning middle class.

Wealthy Mozambicans fulfill their demand for quality cannabis products through their neighbors to the southwest, South Africa. Not only South Africa is the most industrialized country in Africa, but also boasts the largest processed cannabis industry on the continent. South Africa has invested heavily in both the cultivation and processing of hemp, and its domestic cannabis industry is expected to reach ZAR406 billion (equivalent to $22 billion) by 2026.

Gilberto, a supplier of high-end chocolates, hemp oils and lotions in Maputo, the capital of Mozambique, reveals that South Africa is the source of its imported end products. Cannabis products for doctor’s dispensariesPharmacies and chocolate shops. However, all of these transactions happen in secret. Gilberto works as an “importer,” buying these products from South Africa and distributing them to doctors’ offices, wealthy pharmacies, and gift shops in Maputo.

Gilberto, who prefers not to reveal his last name to protect his identity, reveals that despite the risks involved, the potential payoffs make it all worth it. He says a 500ml CBD product used to relieve back pain can be obtained for $4 in South Africa, just across the border. However, he secretly sells the same product to his network of doctors in Mozambique for about $9, which turns in big profits.

Hemp – status symbol

The fact that high-quality hemp products in Mozambique have become a status symbol among the wealthy middle class is an open secret. This category emerged due to the gas boom amid widespread poverty in the country. Notably, these cannabis products are sought after for medical reasons and status symbols.

Dillon Fazza, founder of the Maputo Corruption Control Forum, a local civic organization in Mozambique’s capital, made some interesting comments. She stated that in the wealthy private parties that take place in the city of Maputo, a piece of hemp chocolate or scented soap is seen as an excellent gift capable of raising the status of certain social classes. Furthermore, to facilitate the movement of processed cannabis across country borders, border guards are bribed to turn a blind eye to such activities.

According to Radom Nglin, spokesperson for the merchandise inspection division of SENAME, Mozambique’s border management agency, any cannabis products detected across the country’s borders are not tolerated because it is a prohibited substance. He further stated that any border officer who accepts payment to allow cannabis products into Mozambique is subject to strict and immediate disciplinary action.

Gilberto, an unofficial importer of cannabis in Maputo, explains that Mozambique’s upper class finds it easier to access expensive, processed cannabis products, such as scented soaps, hemp oils, and chocolate. This is because the buyers who frequent doctors’ dispensaries for such products are high-status individuals, including legislators and CEOs. Gilberto knows a minister who relies on CBD to relieve persistent migraines.

The situation is ironic, with ministers publicly denouncing any form of cannabis possession, no matter how trivial. However, they do privately engage in exchanging cannabis chocolates at their exclusive stay parties, which creates a kind of double standard.

Unfair situation

According to Visa, the situation is extremely unfair because the wealthy in Mozambique have easy access to quality medical cannabis products, while the poor do not. This is unfortunate because recent research in the healthcare field has shown that medical cannabis can effectively treat severe conditions such as arthritis and muscle pain.

Faza, an anti-corruption activist, is calling for the legalization of medical cannabis in Mozambique, arguing that it is unfair that only the wealthy can quickly obtain high-quality medical cannabis products while low-income people cannot. Fazza believes legalizing medical cannabis will allow poor Mozambican patients to access cannabis oil for conditions such as foot pain in public clinics with a doctor’s prescription. Additionally, legalizing cannabis would lower prices, increase tax revenues, and eliminate the need for smugglers.


The cannabis industry in Mozambique is complex and often conflicting. Although the use and possession of cannabis is officially prohibited in the country, it is commonly cultivated by the millions of disadvantaged residents who depend on meager crops to survive. Meanwhile, despite the dangers of smuggling them across the border, the rich and powerful have easy access to high-quality medical cannabis products smuggled from neighboring South Africa.

The scenario has generated calls for legalization to reduce the influence of illegal traffickers and provide for a more equitable distribution of cannabis commodities. Ultimately, the controversy surrounding cannabis in Mozambique highlights the difficulties in balancing tradition, public health, and social justice in a rapidly changing world.

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