HLG David Kotler

Medical Cannabis in Zimbabwe

Before I left on a five day trip in which I was given 6 days notice, wasn’t really sure of many of the travel details, and wasn’t certain exactly where I was going, my wife’s family actually asked me if I was positive I was going to comeback with all my organs intact.

That’s how I kicked off a whirlwind trip to…Harare, Zimbabwe. Yes, that Zimbabwe. What the peanut gallery didn’t know was what awaited myself and fellow professionals, Ralph - an industry operator - and Charlena - an operations and logistics specialist. Zimbabwe, and potentially Africa as a whole, presents a blank cannabis canvas ready to be painted.

My experience helping to prepare the framework and presentation for pursuing a license and ultimately the execution of the presentation to many high-level cabinet members of Zimbabwe left me with many impressions and takeaways.

First and foremost, Zimbabwe is a special place with special people.  We were welcomed by the locals as Americans, i.e. the hotel worker in the elevator talked to us about his love of Arnold Schwarzenegger. The government approached us as industry experts and assumed we were knowledgeable, something I truly believe they are seeking as they look to build upon their limited regulatory framework of medicinal cannabis and what will soon follow with industrial hemp.  

Second, the Medical Cannabis industry in Zimbabwe, perhaps representative of what Africa may represent as a whole, is a real dichotomy, or maybe better said an irony.  Unlike the United States, where patients and activists drove political change and ultimately the proliferation of the cannabis industry, in Zimbabwe politicians are driving political change and pushing for the development of the industry.  It is the government driving the evolution of the business. In fact, in Zimbabwe each department chooses a license holder to “partner” with, i.e. the Minister of Health or Military. Truth is, from what I could glean, while “Mbanje” (Cannabis) is known and used in Zimbabwe, there is not a clamor for domestic use of medical cannabis.  The Zimbabwean model isn’t necessarily meant to service the population of Zimbabwe nor, in my opinion, could domestic only consumption be a viable business model. This is a pure export play, one meant to bring economic benefit to Zimbabweans.

Yet, as fantastic and idealistic as this sounds, as mentioned earlier the irony sets in at times. Just before our presentation, which was held in the Ministry of Health, I went to use the restroom. When I went to wash my hands, I found that there was no running water in the bathroom at the ministry of health building.  If you’re reading this, you can surmise how important water is to a successful hands on the plant cannabis business. That is representative of Africa and what I see as the potential market. Ripe with opportunity but filled with political, cultural, and logistical nuance.

David Kotler, Esquire is Counsel to Hoban Law Group and a shareholder with the law firm of Cohen Kotler, P.A. located in Boca Raton, Florida. In 2014, he formed a practice area in Medical Marijuana Business Law for the State of Florida which allows him to draw from all of his practice areas to benefit his clients. He was one of the first attorneys in Florida to undertake representation of individuals and entities hoping to open a "cannabusiness" in Florida after the legalization of full spectrum medical marijuana. He consults with a wide range of individuals and companies countrywide and serves as outside general counsel for numerous cannabis industry clients. He can be contacted at davidk@hoban.law.