More than half the people surveyed in Swaziland (eSwatini) said they were against legalising the growing of cannabis (known locally as dagga).
They also said they would not report a person if they found them growing or selling the drug.
At least two companies based in the United States have expressed serious interest in operating growing farms and processing plants for medical cannabis and industrial hemp in Swaziland.
The Swazi Government in a statement on its website said ‘in anticipating significant economic and medical benefit from the legalization of cannabis for medical and scientific use,’ it was ‘working on an enabling legislative environment for this purpose’.
Swaziland is famous for its Swazi Gold dagga but growing the crop is illegal in the kingdom.
Cannabis (also known as marijuana) also has non-intoxicating forms (known as hemp) that can be used to make fabrics, ropes, papers, and oils, among other uses.
Afrobarometer, a non-partisan research network across Africa, interviewed 1,200 adults in Swaziland. Results suggested a majority (57 percent) of those interviewed ‘disagree’ or ‘strongly disagree’ with the idea of broadly legalising the cultivation of cannabis as a way to create economic opportunity for people. Four in 10 respondents (40 percent) favoured legalisation. The survey asked about legalisation of cannabis cultivation in general and did not explore views on legalising specific aspects of the cannabis industry, such as medical marijuana.
Support for legalising cultivation is somewhat higher – though still a minority view – among urban residents (47 percent), younger respondents (45 percent of 18- to 35-year-olds), and those with secondary (42 percent) or post-secondary (43 percent) education. Respondents’ socio-economic level makes little difference on this issue.
More than six in 10 respondents (63 percent) believe that legalisation of cultivation would be harmful to the kingdom.
Afrobarometer reported people in Swaziland were asked what they considered the most important problems their government should address. ‘Their top priorities are unemployment (cited by 42 percent of respondents) and poverty (22 percent).
‘While the cannabis industry’s potential as a source of jobs, income, and tax revenues has not persuaded most citizens that marijuana cultivation should be legalised, support for such a move is somewhat higher than average among respondents who are not employed and looking for work (44 percent), those who see the country’s economic situation as “fairly bad” or “very bad” (43 percent), and those who think the government is performing poorly on creating jobs (44 percent) and improving living standards of the poor (44 percent).’
The report added despite the opposition to legalising cultivation, most of those surveyed said they would not report people to the authorities for cultivating or selling marijuana. Even people outside the family would be safe from being reported, according to more than three-quarters of respondents (76 percent).