According to the UK New Frontier Data's latest report, Tanzanians consume more marijuana than any other country in East Africa with 3.6 million of its citizens said to indulge in the drug. By Maulline Gragau

Last week the open farming of marijuana in Tanzania made headlines following an investigation that was conducted by the Sunday Standard. The investigation which revealed how the illegal drug is grown and smuggled to neighbouring countries shocked with respect to the scale of the network and the brazen attitude of the players involved. The marijuana farmers had no qualms when it came to bragging about their product and its quality. Many claimed that they got into the trade after they realised that growing tobacco was not sustainable.

We used to spend nine months in our farms growing tobacco, only to harvest and find no market. [Marijuana] takes two to three months to mature and fetches more money compared to tobacco."

So when UK's New Frontier Data ranked it as one of the leading consumers of marijuana within the East African Community, it did not come as a surprise to many Tanzanians. On the contrary, some took to social media platforms stating that it should be legalised, sentiments which echo those of  Tanzanian Member of Parliament (MP) Jumanne Kishimba of Tabora Urban (CCM).

The MP was on the floor of the house in Dodoma last week urging the government to legalise the use of marijuana for medical purposes. He told Parliament that legalisation would enable the country to make a lot of money from growing the drug.

The MP's call for legalisation stems from the growing trend of countries around the world legalizing the usage of marijuana, especially for medical purposes. African countries such as South Africa, Uganda,  Zimbabwe, and Lesotho are among those that have approved the medical application of marijuana.

According to New Frontier Data's report, Tanzania is the leading consumer within the East Africa Community followed closely by Kenya with 3.3 million consumers and ranked sixth in Africa while Uganda with 2.6 million consumers is ranked eighth in Africa. The report also reveals that in 2018 Africa recorded a rather shocking value of up to $37 million worth of marijuana consumed on the continent.

The data firm indicates that Nigeria has the world's highest rate of marijuana use, with 19.4%  of its population aged 15 and above having consumed it in the past year. It goes ahead to highlight the top 4 consumers of marijuana in Africa as follows:

Nigeria with 20.8 million users;
Ethiopia with 7.1 million people;
Egypt with 5.9 million people; and
Democratic Republic of Congo with 5 million people.

The data firm's latest analysis further reveals a huge demand for marijuana with more than 260 million adults worldwide consuming cannabis at least once per year. The collective spending is said to be in the range of about US$344 billion annually.

Asia is said to be the world's largest market due to its geographical size with 39% of global consumers. Yet, Asia has the lowest regional usage rate of 2%, while North America (15%), Europe (12%) and Africa (11%), respectively, have higher percentages of adult consumers.