A bug on weed

31 05 2021

A stink bug sitting on industrial (hemp grade) cannabis

Glossary of terms:
CBD – cannabidiol – the principal cannabinoid in cannabis
THC – tetrahydrocannabinol – the main psychoactive ingredient of cannabis
Cannabis – hemp, “weed”, “dope”, “grass”, “ganja”, marijuana – not all species are narcotic
GMP – Good Manufacturing Practice – certification required to export pharmaceutical quality products (in the context of this article)

Yes, that really is “weed” on which the stinkbug is sitting. I wouldn’t recommend smoking it, the weed that is, as it’s industrial grade cannabis which is grown for the fibre content and has no narcotic effect. Stinkbugs should absolutely not be ingested – they taste as bad as they smell, which is vile.

The Zimbabwe government has been pushing the various cannabis crops (hemp fibre, CBD oil and THC) as potential export crops and Stewart and I were at the Tobacco Research Board (TRB) to see what research they’d been doing. Stewart works part time for the Commercial Farmers’ Union and was trying to persuade me to write a growing guide, I knew how little I knew and was resisting but was still interested in finding out more about the crop.

The lead researcher was a young, dynamic fellow by the name of Munyaradzi or just Munya for short. He was passionate and knowledgeable about the crop. He quickly explained that they were just looking at the industrial or hemp quality cannabis at the TRB – the CBD oil and THC varieties, which have up to 0.3% THC and more than 0.3% THC respectively required onerous security which was not feasible. Industrial cannabis merely requires a fence and lockable gate so they were interested in getting small-scale growers into growing the crop.

The TRB had imported a number of different cultivars of the industrial hemp from origins as diverse as China, France and the USA. Some were clearly not suited to the relatively short Zimbabwean days though Munya did admit that it was early days and the seed had only been sown in January. Extending the day length with lights is practiced by the growers of the CBD and THC strains which keeps the crop from flowering too early. He told us that they’d approached the CID (Criminal Investigation Department) of the police to see if they could visit areas in the west of Zimbabwe where the THC version of cannabis has been grown illegally for many years to see if they had any selections that may be useful as he felt they’d certainly be climate adapted. Apparently breeding out the THC would not be difficult and yes, the police had approved the idea in principle.

Industrial hemp is quite widely used in the automotive and other industries that required cladding but the real money, Munya said, is in the CBD oil and THC. Unsurprisingly the buyers require the product to be GMP certified which requires stringent quality controls and regular inspections by a certified inspector which Zimbabwe doesn’t have. If it’s to be used for medicinal purposes the crop also has to be grown organically. A neighbour to the TRB who is growing the CBD cultivars has had to destroy his entire product so far as he cannot get it certified. Currently there are not a lot of major players in the industry but Munya predicted that it was going to get going within a few years.

One could be forgiven for thinking that the Zimbabwe government has other ideas. On Thursday this week they introduced a bill (SI 127 of 2021) forbidding anyone from trading in Zimbabwe dollars at anything other than the official rate of 84:1. The legislation has been around for some time but was not enforced. Now apparently it will be, with punitive fines for those who choose to ignore it. Most businesses have been pricing in US dollars and then multiplying by around 125 to get the Zimbabwe dollar price. This makes it attractive to pay in US and then more imports can be sourced. There is a government “auction” in place where one can bid for US dollars but the price is fixed, so it’s not really an auction at all, and there’s no guarantee of getting the hard currency. That there has to be an “auction” at all is indicative of just how short hard currency is. Forcing businesses to trade at the official rate is only going to make goods very expensive in US dollar terms so people will use Zimbabwe dollars and imported goods (most things) will become scarce. This graphic from a local asset management company says it concisely. “Decline in economic activity, stagnation, loss of confidence in local currency, and increased probability of second collapse of local currency”. Yes, we have been here before.


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1 06 2021
Richard Taylor

G’Day I just got this in from a guy in Zimbs, I think he is or was a grower of seedlings tobacco plants for sale to commercial farmers? and I subscribed his blog ages ago, it pops up every now and again, I think this story about growing weed in Zimbs might be of interest. If Mel is thinking of heading out to Aussie both More in Melbourne and me here in Adelaide will of-course assist as much as we can, I imagine they will aim for New Zealand, I couldn’t believe how much the cost of the exam was. Still a few consults at an 24 hour vet clinic in a big city would get the exam cost back in less than half a shift. Like you guys we are in winter, which I don’t do well, I should be heading up north but leaving the state in these virus days can be a bit of a worry as boarders can close at moments notice, like Melbourne, Victoria is at the moment, and returning home could entail a two week stay in a hotel at your expense. As always I enjoy getting your weekly letter, the poachers worry me please keep safe, Oh and warm! Regards Richard.

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