Tanzania The United Republic of Tanzania is a large country in East Africa, with a population of around 45 million and a GDP of $74 billion. Tanzania is also one of the world's largest cannabis producers—as well as producing significant quantities of khat—and is situated along several international trafficking routes.
Law and international policy
Although cannabis is illegal in Tanzania, systemic corruption and limited resources prevent authorities from enforcing the law consistently and effectively. In the neighbouring countries of Mozambique, Uganda, Malawi and Kenya, eradication efforts have been somewhat more successful, to the extent that Tanzania now produces cannabis domestically for export to these countries and others.
In 2010, seizures of cannabis in Tanzania amounted to 279.5 metric tons (MT)—accounting for 4% of the global total—and were the third largest by country after Mexico (2,313 MT) and the USA (1,931 MT). Seizures have been increasing over the last few years, from 73 MT in 2003 and 150 MT in 2005, showing that the industry is rapidly increasing in significance.
The national body responsible for coordinating national efforts to eradicate and impound cannabis in Tanzania is the Inter-Ministerial Anti-Drug Commission, which was founded in 1997 and currently is working closely with international anti-narcotics agencies including the International Narcotics Control Board (INCB). Structured cooperation between narcotics police in Tanzania, Uganda and Kenya have also been established.
Cannabis arrests and sentences
Due to the porous nature of Tanzania’s borders and its importance on global trafficking routes such as those originating in India, Pakistan and Afghanistan, the flow of narcotics in and out of the country is considerable. The main entry points are the major airports of Dar es Salaam, Zanzibar and Kilimanjaro, the seaports of Dar es Salaam and Zanzibar, and smaller ports including Tanga and Mwanza.
Small, frequent consignments are very common, and many Tanzanians are tempted or coerced into becoming “mules”—dispensable workers who are paid negligible amounts to traffic small to mid-sized quantities of narcotics in or out of the country. Indeed, in 2009 it was estimated that over half of the traffickers intercepted in Ethiopia were Tanzanian. In the years between 2005 and 2010, 211 Tanzanian nationals were arrested in foreign countries, and some were subjected to the death penalty.
Penalties for foreign nationals found to be in possession of—or attempting to traffic—illegal narcotics in Tanzania can be severe. Simple possession of cannabis can result in up to five years’ imprisonment, with additional fines. Trafficking and supply can lead to even longer sentences, although arrests are relatively rare due to poor enforcement and corruption. Since 2012, Tanzanian lawmakers have been attempting to pass a bill that would allow life sentences to be given for the more serious narcotics offences, as the existing penalties and fines are deemed insufficient to curb the growing narcotics trade.
The cannabis trade in Tanzania
Various international trade routes pass through Tanzania, spanning a vast area of the globe. Routes from Brazil through Ethiopia to Tanzania were discovered in 2010, and the country also acts as a hub for drugs being transported from Asia to Europe and the Americas, as well as land-locked African countries such as Zambia and Malawi. Cannabis is cultivated in many regions, and also grows wild throughout much of the country.
The regions in which the most cannabis is cultivated are Morogoro, Iringa, Tabora, Mara, Arusha, Rukwa, Rumuva, and Tanga. From 2009 onwards, increased demand in Mozambique led to a rise in cultivation in the nearby areas of Lindi and Mtwara. However, most cannabis produced in Tanzania is still intended for domestic consumption.
Landrace cannabis varieties of Tanzania
The traditional sativas of East Africa are well-known for their potent, psychoactive effect, and have sparked a wave of cannabis tourism, particularly in Malawi. The Malawi Gold is without doubt the most famous traditional cultivar found in this part of the continent, and has become the predominant commercial genetic in Tanzania too. The Tanzanian Magic is another strain developed for commercial production, and is a 100% sativa native to the southern highlands of the country.
Sativas indigenous to the region are mostly tall, straight plants with thin, dark-green leaves. Many varieties have adapted to requiring long vegetative growth periods before flowering can commence, due to the very slight variation in temperature found throughout the year in regions so close to the equator. Some landraces found in the region require as much as 20 weeks vegetative growth prior to flowering. The aromas and flavours associated with East African sativas are generally spicy, sharp, astringent and pine-scented.
Traditional use and modern cultural attitudes
Cannabis use in food and medicine has been a feature of rural Tanzanian life for centuries—if not millennia– and its use is widespread. In the southern highlands, cannabis seeds and leaves are used in the preparation of various traditional dishes, and traditional healers are known to use cannabis extract to treat ear-ache. A new wave of “modern” urban cannabis use began subsequent to the Second World War, as returning soldiers—who had been exposed to new cultural and recreational practices while stationed abroad—brought their new customs back with them. Abuse of cannabis is nonetheless frowned upon in Tanzanian society, and heavy use is relatively uncommon.
It is important to document the history and current events of the ongoing drug war in every country that it occurs—for this reason, organisations like the Hash Marijuana & Hemp Museum in Amsterdam are crucial as they attempt to bring together information from various credible sources in order to provide the most accurate, up-to-date and unbiased information on the present global situation.