Madagascar, officially the Republic of Madagascar and previously known as the Malagasy Republic, is an island country in the Indian Ocean, off the coast of Southeast Africa. The nation comprises the island of Madagascar (the fourth-largest island in the world), as well as numerous smaller peripheral islands. Following the prehistoric breakup of the supercontinent Gondwana, Madagascar split from India around 88 million years ago, allowing native plants and animals to evolve in relative isolation.
Cannabis has been used recreationally and as medicine for centuries by the Malagasy people, where it is known as rongony or zamal. Contemporary writings indicate that cannabis was smoked by the Malagasy by the mid-17th century; the French are believed to have outlawed its use in Madagascar when they colonized the island in 1896. The Malagasy use cannabis for medicinal, spiritual and recreational purposes—although many traditional religious and medical uses seem to be disappearing. At festivals, cannabis is often smoked communally; it is usually reserved for such occasions and is not otherwise widely used recreationally.
Cannabis is illegal in Madagascar, although its use is endemic. The main authority over drug policy and enforcement is the Commission Interministérielle de Coordination de la Lutte contre la Drogue (CICLD), established in 1998. The government of Madagascar has also been cooperating with the government of nearby Mauritius as part of a bilateral agreement established in 1990; plans to increase cooperation with Comoros, another neighbouring island, are also underway.