History of CBD and Cannabis: The Democratic Republic of the Congo
The Democratic Republic of the Congo, or simply The Congo, is a large expanse of land located squarely in Central Africa. As the largest country in sub-Saharan Africa, the Congo has undergone frequent military and rebel conflict since 2015.
Some 90,000 years ago, the territory was first reached by Central African foragers. By the mid nineteenth century, just before the period known as the European “Scramble for Africa”, explorers led by Belgium acquired the territory as a colonial property.
Even to this day, the Congo has suffered as a result of the extreme conditions experienced during colonial rule. At the time, the forces of Leopold coerced residents to produce rubber between 1885 and 1905, which resulted in millions of deaths as a consequence of widespread disease and starvation.
The Congo gained independence in 1960, resulting in a series of different political rulers that instituted dictatorial, democratic, and monarchical rule over the years. Destabilization by genocide has frequently threatened or overthrown entrenched political powers, which has led to poverty, fragmentation, and civil war.
What does this mean for cannabis trade? Essentially, all local attitudes and policies towards cannabis have arisen due to the complex, conflicting, and violent state of the Congo’s political history.
Cannabis, CBD, and the Democratic Republic of the Congo
It’s believed that cannabis was first introduced to the Congo in the 1850s. Carried by Swahili traders from Zanzibar, cannabis was quickly adopted by traditional healers and religious leaders.
However, cannabis consumption threatened the power of colonial rulers at the time. During the era of European exploration, Dutch colonists believed that cannabis caused laziness and an intractable attitude in Congolese residents. Soon after the Congo became a full territory, cannabis was completely criminalized and punishable by whipping or other life-threatening penalties.
Currently, cannabis is completely illegal for recreational and medical use throughout the Congo. Much current cannabis policy is derived from the attitudes of Dutch settlers; however, pressure by the United States also went a long way towards determining cannabis law in the country.
Despite legalization, it’s extremely difficult for local law enforcers to enact penalties on cultivators, distributors, and individual consumers. By and large, many legal officials are prone to bribery and exploitation, which makes cannabis essentially decriminalized for personal use.
Cannabis is primarily cultivated and used locally by entrenched criminal organizations that base their headquarters in the Saharan desert. Even to this day, large quantities of marijuana are smuggled to France and Belgium.
Ultimately, cannabis consumption and policy patterns represent just one dimension of the extensive fragmentation of the Congo. The state’s complete inability to enact and enforce meaningful cannabis policy represents the impact of colonial rule as well as the failure of the state to unify Congolese residents. It’s unlikely the Congo will institute decriminalization or legalization schemes any time soon.