Zambia just approved a medical marijuana export program that will cultivate and distribute cannabis to other countries, though the plant’s legal status for citizens’ use is hazy.

On December 4th, Zambia’s government approved medical cannabis exports during a closed-door cabinet meeting, Reuters reported. The government’s announcement did not mention whether the export program also meant the nation’s residents could access medical cannabis, only that licensed Zambian cultivators could grow and ship weed out of the country.

“Depending on how properly this is done, this could just change the face of Zambia’s economy,” Zambia’s Green Party President Peter Sinkamba said to Reuters. “This could be a blessing or a curse, like diamonds and gold, depending on the policy direction.”

Sinkamba has been a long-time advocate for legalizing cannabis in his country, and he has claimed that the nation’s new export program could generate $36 billion. That’s an ambitious number considering estimates predict the world’s legal cannabis industry will be worth $66.3 billion by 2025, which means that Zambia’s weed industry woud make up over half of the global cannabis market.

Regardless, Zambia’s government is welcoming the export program to assuage its swelling national debt. Prior to 2018, the nation added $8.4 billion in debt annually. But after 2018, Zambia was on track to add $10.5 billion in debt every year going forward.

Africa’s been reforming its marijuana laws almost as rapidly as Western countries, though the world’s second-largest continent hasn’t gotten as much media attention as the US, Canada, or Europe. Last year, Zimbabwe became the first African nation to legalize medical marijuana cultivation and production — but only for research purposes. In April, Uganda formed a partnership with an Israeli company to produce medical marijuana for export purposes only. 

But Africa’s two most weeded countries are Nigeria and South Africa. In 2018, South Africa became the first (and only) African nation to legalize recreational weed. While marijuana remains illegal in Nigeria, some market estimates claim that Nigerians smoke more weed than almost anyone else on the planet.

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Zambia’s New Weed Export Program Expected to Make $36 Billion, Politician Says

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