Zimbabwe legalised the growing of marijuana for medical purposes

THE daily use of cannabis is associated with an increased risk of psychosis or serious mental illness, with more potent forms of the drug such as “skunk” heightening the risk, a study by leading scientists has revealed.

This comes as Zimbabwe has liberalises pot laws on medical or health use of cannabis, otherwise known as mbanje or marijuana.
A large international study conducted in one site in Brazil and across 11 sites in Europe – including in Amsterdam, London and Paris has revealed that daily use of pot, known locally as mbanje, trebles the vulnerability of users to psychosis as compared to people who have never used it.

Psychosis is a severe mental health disorder in which patients’ thoughts and emotions are impaired on such a regular basis that they routinely experience delusions and hallucinations that make it impossible to know what’s real and what isn’t.

Psychosis can be caused by schizophrenia, and it can also happen as a result of some other medical conditions and as a side effect of certain prescription medications or illegal drugs. Many countries have legalised or decriminalised cannabis use, leading to concerns that this might result in an increase in cannabis use and associated harms.

The findings come as Zimbabwe last year okayed the issue of licences to grow cannabis for medical and research purposes, making it the second country in Africa to legalize cultivation of the plant, a move set to create an industry likely to lure a breed of high-risk, high-return investors.

This comes after Lesotho in 2017 announced the continent’s first license to grow cannabis legally. Until now, it has been illegal to grow, possess or use cannabis in Zimbabwe, with offenders facing up to 12 years in jail. But new regulations gazetted in April last year gave individuals and companies the green light to cultivate marijuana.

The study - funded by the Medical Research Council, the European Community's Seventh Framework Programme grant, Sao Paolo Research Foundation, National Institute for Health Research Biomedical Research Centre at South London and Maudsley NHS Foundation Trust and King's College London and the NIHR BRC at University College London, and the Wellcome Trust - is the first to show the impact of cannabis use on population rates of psychosis.

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