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Is Marijuana Legal in Burkina Faso?

Burkina Faso flag with a hand holding a marijuana infront of it

The cultivation, sale, and possession of cannabis are illegal in Burkina Faso. The law does not differentiate between medical cannabis and marijuana for recreational purposes.

Several African countries recently updated their drug policies in favor of medical marijuana or decriminalization, including South Africa and Ghana. However, this is not the case in Burkina Faso.

Medical Marijuana Laws in Burkina Faso

The production, sale, and possession of medicinal marijuana products are prohibited in Burkina Faso.

Burkina Faso’s current drug policy is derived in part from its support for the United Nations anti-drug treaties, including:

  • UN Single Convention on Narcotic Drugs (1961)
  • Convention on Psychotropic Substances (1971)
  • Convention Against Illicit Traffic in Narcotic Drugs and Psychotropic Substances (1988)

Within its borders, Burkina Faso governs narcotic drugs, like cannabis, under the Code des drogues au Burkina.

Article 6 states that all plants and substances classified as narcotics or psychotropic substances by international conventions and substances dangerous to health are forbidden.

The law classifies these illicit substances in one of the following tables:

  • Table I: High-risk plants and substances of no medical interest
  • Table Ï: High-risk plants and substances of medical interest
  • Table Ø: Plants and substances with possible medical interest

Cannabis falls under Table I, prohibiting the production, manufacture, trade, wholesale and retail distribution, transport, and possession.

What to Know About Medical Cannabis in Burkina Faso

Cannabis of any kind is illegal in Burkina Faso, a landlocked West African nation. The UN reports that Burkina Faso sees drug use as a growing problem, similar to other parts of West Africa.

Authorities fear drugs can lead to greater insecurity and an increase in the prevalence of mental illness and various infectious diseases.

Cannabis Use in Burkina Faso

Africa has one of the highest rates of cannabis use as a continent. An American research institute’s regional report in 2019 reported the following statistics:

  • Africa has 83 million cannabis users (nearly one-third of the world’s 263 million users)
  • Africa’s estimated market accounts for 11% of the total global market
  • Africa’s cannabis consumption rate (13.4%) is more than twice that of the global rate (6%)

A report on cannabis tolerance in African countries reinforced the prevalence of marijuana use in Burkina Faso. On a scale of one to 10 — where one is highly prohibited and 10 is legal — Burkina Faso has a smoking tolerance level of eight.

According to the tolerance report, police in Burkina Faso claim that almost 20% of the young adult population has tried marijuana or other drugs.

Drug Trafficking in Burkina Faso

The Burkinabe government, notably the “Comité National de Lutte contre la Drogue” (i.e., National Committee to Combat Drug Abuse), treats drugs as a security problem, not a public health issue.

Sharing largely unmonitored borders with six West African countries, Burkina Faso is an ideal narcotics transit point from West Africa across the Sahel to Europe.

According to an index on crime in Africa, the Burkina Faso capital, Ouagadougou, is a significant hub, especially for traffickers transporting drugs to Benin, Ghana, and Mali.

Unlike the relatively tolerant African nations of Equatorial Guinea and Cape Verde, Burkinabe authorities actively engage in the fight against drug trafficking and trade.

Technically, Burkinabe law allows drug offenders to replace jail time with rehabilitation.

However, structures and policies for harm reduction are scarce, meaning drug users are more likely to end up in prison, sometimes repeatedly.

Overall, African nations are more likely to seize illicit cannabis than other parts of the world.

According to the 2021 UN World Drug Report, quantities of cannabis herb and cannabis resin seized globally declined in all regions except Africa, especially in West Africa, Central Africa, and North Africa subregions.

Between 2009 and 2011, cannabis seizures in Burkina Faso doubled.

Burkina Faso vs. Other African Countries

Many countries have legalized or decriminalized medical marijuana use and recreational cannabis in recent years.

Despite having some of the highest levels of cannabis production worldwide, most African nations have not followed the legalization trend.

Burkina Faso’s local laws can inflict severe punishments on people caught with marijuana, from hefty fines to extensive prison sentences.

However, there is a growing interest in changing the legal status of cannabis in African countries, especially considering the potential of legalization boosting economies.

According to a report on the impact of recreational and medical cannabis in Africa, several countries recently introduced new legislation.

Lesotho, Malawi, Rwanda, Sierra Leone, South Africa, Zambia, and Zimbabwe have made official provisions for medicinal cannabis.

South Africa and Ghana have decriminalized personal use, and Egypt and Mozambique have explored similar legislation.

Other countries, such as Cameroon, have made or attempted provisions geared toward creating export markets. Some countries, such as Seychelles and South Africa, now allow CBD products with little or no THC for medical use.

Can You Grow Cannabis in Burkina Faso?

Growing marijuana is illegal in Burkina Faso. Article 11 of the Code des drogues au Burkina states that the “cultivation of plants classified as narcotics by international conventions is prohibited on national territory.”

However, reports indicate that cannabis cultivation remains prevalent in Burkina Faso, particularly in areas along the southern borders and on the outskirts of Ouagadougou.

The Bottom Line

In line with many African countries, cannabis production, use, possession, and cultivation are illegal in Burkina Faso.

The law does not recognize cannabis as having medical interest and makes no distinction between medical or recreational use.

The government regularly deals with drug traffickers and considers cannabis use a security issue.