EducationAfrica awaits! Your whistle-stop guide to medical cannabis regulations around Africa

Africa awaits! Your whistle-stop guide to medical cannabis regulations around Africa

16 min read

Lucy MacKinnon


Please note that this information does not constitute legal advice and should not be solely relied upon. It is crucial to thoroughly review the current travel advice for each country before making any travel arrangements or embarking on a journey with medical cannabis. 

For anyone in the UK, embarking on a journey across the African continent sounds like an incredibly exciting and exhilarating experience, however the intricacies of travelling with prescribed medications, particularly medical cannabis, require careful consideration. 

As part of our ongoing travel guide series, we’ve set our sights on the diverse and rich landscapes, cultures, and experiences of Africa, and outlined the information available for travelling to Morocco, Malawi, South Africa, Zambia, and Zimbabwe with medical cannabis. 

Before delving into the specifics of each country, it’s essential to adhere to the general guidance offered by the UK government and Home Office when travelling with medicines. This includes bringing a copy of your prescription and a letter from your doctor explaining your course of treatment. All medicines should be carried in your hand luggage, in their original containers with clearly printed labels.

While our aim is to empower you with information to make informed decisions when travelling, it's important to note that we cannot provide guarantees, and we always recommend contacting the destination’s embassy or consulate well in advance of your trip for the most up-to-date guidance. But, stick with us as we embark upon a deeper exploration of African regulations and legislations surrounding medical cannabis, so that you know where to start when planning the trip of a lifetime. 

Medical cannabis in Morocco 

Back in 2020, Morocco supported the United Nations Commission on Narcotic Drugs decision to reclassify cannabis by, recognising its medicinal and therapeutic value, and its cultivation and production for medical, industrial and scientific purposes in Morocco was legalised the following year. 

In 2022, it was revealed by Reuters that the Moroccan State Agency had issued 10 permits for cannabis production, and their government had identified specific areas within Morocco as eligible land cannabis production. Now three areas, Chefchaouen, Tétouan, and Al Hocemia, account for most of Morocco’s cannabis production as a nation.

However, although cannabis production has proved popular among farmers, there is little information on how much cannabis is exported and how much is used for medical treatment and pharmaceutical purposes within Morocco. It is also unclear how easily patients in Morocco can access legal, medicinal cannabis. 

Due to this uncertainty, it is unclear whether medical cannabis patients from the UK would be able to purchase their medicine whilst on holiday in Morocco. Information surrounding the importation of medicines is also rather ambiguous and so, as always, we’d recommend contacting the Embassy for clarification on: 

The Ministry of Economy and Finance in Morocco have released a PDF information pack informing foreigners visiting Morocco of their customs process, which includes instructions for travelling with medicine. They read: 

“Medications that you import for personal use are admitted free of duties and taxes and do not require prior authorization from the Ministry of Health. However, at the time of import of these medications, it is necessary to produce in addition to the required documents (medical certificate, prescription), a commitment to use them only for personal use and to re-export the unused remainder at the end of your stay”. 

The need for a ‘commitment’ is reiterated by another source, Wetrans, an international logistics company, who state the model of this commitment is available from Moroccan customs administration or entry services. 

Visa HQ, reaffirm that when travelling to Morocco, medicines are classed as restricted import items, and these documents are needed in order to legally take them into Morocco. 

However, it is unclear if controlled drugs like cannabis based medicines are still deemed as ‘restricted’ items, or if their psychoactive components make them ‘prohibited’ items. So, it is important to speak to the Embassy directly for authorisation before booking your flight. 

Medical cannabis in Malawi 

In February 2020, Malawi passed the Cannabis Regulation Bill, which legalised the cultivation and production of medical marijuana and outlined their proposed medical marijuana program. 

This structure entailed allowing licensed and registered clinics to prescribe cannabis-based treatments to patients with identity cards that qualified them for these options. However, the Bill failed to establish which health conditions were deemed eligible for cannabis-based treatments, leaving ambiguity in the air on who would be able to apply for an identity card. 

The Cannabis Regulatory Authority was also established to oversee this new budding industry, and issue licences to cultivate, research, process, store, sell, export and distribute medical cannabis in Malawi. Those found to be acting in any of these areas without a licence could face up to 25 years in prison, and a fine of nearly $70,000, and so it is imperative to stay on the right side of the law. 

For tourists wishing to visit Malawi, we’d recommend contacting the High Commission (, to speak to them about the controlled status of your medication, and ask them for specific advice and authorisation if you need to travel with medical cannabis. Online, Malawi Revenue Authority state that medical drugs and/or pharmaceuticals always need an import licence when they are imported into the country in any way, and so this would seemingly also apply to cannabis-based medicines. 

Visa HQ reiterate this, and state that at the border medication is a restricted item, which means permissible, so long as certain requirements are met. These requirements may include having an import licence, or a medical certificate and a copy of the prescription with you alongside your medication when travelling. They state medication must be carried in its original packaging, with the legible labelling, and in your hand luggage – but they also advise speaking to the High Commission for approval and confirmation. 

The Australian government website Smart Traveller have a dedicated page to inform their citizens of the do’s and don’ts when travelling to Malawi. Here, the generalised advice for carrying medication, regarding documentation, packaging, and embassy approval, is repeated, and prohibited items are explained. They also advise ‘don’t use or carry illegal drugs, including cannabis’ in Malawi because of the long prison sentences attached to criminal charges. So, we’d recommend speaking to the High Commission or Embassy for advice on how you could prove your medicine was not an illegal drug whilst in Malawi, even if you had gained authorisation to carry it into the country already. 

Medical cannabis in South Africa

In South Africa, cannabis for private consumption was decriminalised in 2020, and it can now be medically prescribed to treat any condition deemed acceptable by a doctor who holds a SAHPRA (South African Health Products Regulatory Agency) licence. Unbeknownst to many, in certain areas, South Africa have actually capitalised on the cannabis industry, even offering bud and breakfast’ style accommodation for tourists. 

Back in May 2020, the South African Minister of Health amended the scheduling of cannabis and cannabis components, like CBD and THC. By removing the cannabis plant from its previous classification of Schedule 7, the possession of cannabis by an adult in South Africa became legally permitted, so long as it is for personal use in private. 

With a few exceptions, cannabidiol (CBD) was moved to Schedule 4, and tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) was moved to schedule 6 at the same time, although, so far, no THC or CBD containing medicines have been registered by SAHPRA. 

It is unclear whether this would cause any issues at the border for those trying to travel with their own cannabis-based medicines. The SAHPRA guidelines state:

“Any person entering or departing the Republic of South Africa may be in possession, for personal medicinal use, of a quantity of a Schedule 3, Schedule 4, Schedule 5, or 6 substance which shall not exceed a quantity required for use for a period of one month; and the said person must have

  • A valid prescription for such scheduled substance of medicine;
  • A certificated to the effect that the scheduled substance or medicine concerned including its quantity was prescribed for the person, including the name and address of such authorised prescriber; and
  • His or her particulars of residence in the Republic, in the case of the person entering the Republic, recorded at the port of entry.”

However, a traveller’s guide dated two years previously, from the South African Revenue Service (SARS) suggests that all narcotic and psychotropic substances, and ‘habit-forming drugs such as cannabis’ are classed as prohibited goods at customs. In 2023, ‘habit-forming drugs’ appear on the updated Prohibited and Restricted Imports and Exports list, but the SARS travellers guide does explain that some of these prohibited goods may be permitted if they are accompanied by a permit, licence, or authorisation, and declared upon arrival. 

When travelling into South Africa with any kind of medication, you should always have a copy of the prescription, a doctor’s certificate that has been authorised by the health authority in your residence, and a certificate that has been issued and authorised by South African authorities. The INCB recommend speaking to the Department of Health for more detailed information on how to get these documents, because they are South Africa’s Competent Authority, and we’d also advise speaking to the Embassy for specific advice on cannabis-based medicines. 

Additionally, the South African customs website, run by SARS, provides useful information for prospective travellers, so they know the process at arrivals. Here they explain tourists must complete either the online declaration form, or the manual TC01 Traveller Card, when they arrive in South Africa with items or goods that need to be declared – such as medicine. After going through immigration, these passengers must then pass through the red customs channel and verbally declare this to a customs officer to stay on the right side of the law.

Medical cannabis in Zambia

Zambia also recently reviewed their cannabis laws, and in May 2021 The Cannabis Act and the Industrial Hemp Act were enacted simultaneously. Following a cabinet decision from 2019, it appears Zambia’s motivations to change their cannabis laws were much more rooted in the interest of the public purse, as opposed to public health. 

The former Minister of Communication and Broadcasting and MP Dora Siliya, revealed in 2020 that the Ministry of Health had been tasked with coordinating the necessary licences, and a technical committee had been formed to establish regulatory guidelines. However, Siliya’s statement did not clarify whether the medicinal use of cannabis had been legalised, alongside its cultivation - and information in this area is extremely limited online. 

Zambia’s library of congress states: “The Cannabis Act permits a person to engage in what is called licensed activity, the cultivation, manufacture, production, storage, distribution, import, and export of cannabis for medicinal, scientific or research purposes”. 

However, they add: “The Narcotic Drugs and Psychotropic substances Act of 2021 bars anyone from consuming psychotropic substances, including: products of cannabis containing more than 0.3% delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol, herbal products known as marijuana, cannabis resins or hashish cake, cannabis oil or hashish oil; and any other cannabis products.”

In Zambia, the Controlled Substances Bill 2023 lists cannabis, cannabis resin, cannabis extract and tinctures in Schedule 1 Part A: Narcotic Drugs, and tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) in Part B: Psychotropic Substances. The guidelines state these Schedule 1 substances have a high potential for abuse, pose a serious risk to public health, or have limited to no use in medical and scientific research. 

The recreational use of cannabis is strictly forbidden in Zambia, and those caught possessing cannabis without authorisation are subject to a harsh fine, and often a prison sentence. There are also extremely strict laws against trafficking substances like cannabis, and to make this even more tricky, Zambia have not established what quantity, or amount, of drugs constitutes trafficking. 

From this, it appears that although medical cannabis can be legally produced in Zambia, it would be unlikely that the Zambian authorities would grant permission to tourists wishing to travel with their cannabis-based medicines, or consume these medications when abroad. 

However, it is still worth getting in touch with the Embassy directly for further information or advice on how you may be able to travel to Zambia with medical cannabis or cannabis based medicines. We’d also advise contacting Zambian customs for guidance on travelling to the country with controlled medicines, including gaining any necessary authorisations or documentation. 

Medical cannabis in Zimbabwe 

In Zimbabwe, cannabis was legalised for medicinal and scientific purposes five years ago in 2018. Residents of Zimbabwe can apply for licensed from their Health Minister to cultivate cannabis for these purposes, but they have to pay a large licence fee – reportedly up to $50,000, and so it is clear this route is not for patients wishing to grow their own medicine, and instead is for industry players. 

Some sources, such as a Zimbabwean daily newspaper called the Herald, suggest that this change in law was powered by financial and economic motivations, as opposed to an attempt to improve public health. This has left many in Zimbabwe viewing the cannabis industry as corrupt, and in 2022, the Herald said: 

“Since nothing seems to have been said about establishing a medical programme for citizens, the change in regulation for medical cannabis seems to be for commercial purposes only.” 

Without an established medical cannabis program, it is difficult to understand how or if patients in Zimbabwe can access cannabis-based medicines. However, a 2020 study of traditional medicine practitioners in Zimbabwe revealed that whole plant cannabis, cannabis leaves and cannabis seeds were all used by practising practitioners to treat a number of conditions including cancer, insomnia, anxiety, epilepsy and malaria. 

In this paper, the plants used by traditional medicine practitioners were given ‘use values’ – calculated using the amount of citations given in practitioner responses. At the end of the study, researchers determined that Cannabis Sativa had the highest use value out of every plant or herbal substance used in traditional medicine that was listed, suggesting that cannabis components are commonly used in traditional medicine practices in Zimbabwe. 

From this, it suggests that Zimbabweans are able to access medicinal cannabis, or cannabis based medicines, from traditional medicine practitioners - but it is unclear whether tourists could do the same. We’d advise speaking to the Ministry of Health and Child Care to ask about the legality of your prescribed medicines in Zimbabwe, to see if you would be able to travel with your medical cannabis, as opposed to purchasing more once you’ve crossed the border.

A simple google search shows that an import licence is required when importing medicines or drugs into Zimbabwe, but narcotic drugs are deemed as prohibited items, and so it is unclear whether medical cannabis would be classed as permitted, or prohibited.

The Zimbabwean Revenue Authority advise these permits or licences are granted by the Medicines Control Authority in Zimbabwe, and so we’d suggest getting in touch with them for more information. As well as contacting the MCA and the Ministry of Health and Child Care, we’d also advise speaking directly with the Embassy for absolute clarification and authorisation before attempting to travel to Zimbabwe with medical cannabis or cannabis based medicines to keep yourself safe. 


As we explored the legislations and regulations in place in Morocco, Malawi, South Africa, Zambia and Zimbabwe, it has become clear that each destination presents its own unique challenges and opportunities for medical cannabis patients. 

While we’ve provided you with this guide as a starting point, it is imperative to gain the necessary approvals before attempting to fly. We stress the importance of contacting the relevant authorities and respective embassies to stay up to date with the latest information and developments for travelling with medical cannabis, to ensure you end up with hot weather, and not in hot water. 

For further guidance or information, check out the rest of our travel guide series to learn everything from the basics, to what the professionals say, about travelling with medical cannabis. 

Our aim is to provide you with relevant information to help you to make better-informed decisions when travelling with your prescribed medical cannabis, but we cannot provide any guarantees, conditions, or warranties as to the accuracy of the information in this article. It is a general guide only and not a substitute for obtaining your own legal advice.

Releaf understands that embarking on your medical cannabis journey can be overwhelming, and even slightly intimidating – that’s why we offer tailored monthly packages, specialist consultations for medical cannabis, and our unique medical cannabis card to give you the peace of mind that your treatment is protected, all based on your medical cannabis prescription.

It is important to seek medical advice before starting any new treatments. The patient advisors at Releaf are available to provide expert advice and support. Alternatively, click here to book a consultation with one of our specialist doctors.

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With five years of journalism and healthcare content creation under her belt, Lucy strives to improve medical cannabis awareness and access in the UK by producing high quality, credible content.

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