A landmark decision was made last week by our Parliament. The ‘august House’ adopted a motion tabled by Ntchisi North Constituency parliamentarian, Boniface Kadzamira, that government must legalize the cultivation and use of the industrial Hemp in Malawi.
Industrial Hemp is from the plant species ‘Cannabis sativa’ and has been used worldwide to produce a variety of industrial and consumer products. Hemp is also a source of fiber and oilseed.
Many MPs, both from the opposition and government side, spoke in support of the motion. Minister of Health, Dr. Peter Kumpalume brought in a technical perspective to the debate. He ‘schooled’ the House that Industrial Hemp is high in fiber and low in active tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), the psychoactive ingredient in marijuana that makes some cannabis varieties a valued drug.
Kumpalume, a trained medical doctor and MP Blantyre West legislator, said like in all countries where production of Industrial Hemp is legalized, Malawi will have to strictly regulate the THC levels of Industrial Hemp, which should be less than 0.3 percent, compared to THC levels of between 3 to 30 percent in marijuana.
The most exciting contribution came from the Minister of Agriculture, Irrigation and Water Development, Dr. George Chaponda.
While agreeing with many sentiments about the economic benefits of Industrial Hemp, the Minister was clearly, surprised that the many economies that were touted to have benefitted immensely from Industrial Hemp production included China, Canada, France and the United States of America.
No African country was ever mentioned, not even from the SADC where Malawi belongs to, to have benefitted from Industrial Hemp. The Minister of Agriculture then emphasized on the need that control measures shall have to be put right in place to avoid abuse of the ‘real’ marijuana in the light of the legalization of Industrial Hemp.
Chaponda cited an example of law enforcers detaining someone at a roadblock “for being found in possession of marijuana” and another being let free for “possessing Industrial Hemp”. The Minister envisioned a scenario, in the absence of strict controls, where the former would argue that they both deserve freedom!
Real benefits and the people factor
Never mind the merits and demerits of the debate on Industrial Hemp in Parliament, there is one thing remains clear: We have a progressive Parliament that will stop at nothing in order to ensure that the country’s economic woes are stopped once and for all.
Literature has it that Industrial Hemp has many uses, including paper manufacturing, textiles, biodegradable plastics, construction, health food, and fuel.
It is one of the fastest growing biomasses known and one of the earliest domesticated plants known. It also runs parallel with the “Green Future” objectives that are becoming increasingly popular.
Furthermore, hemp can be used to replace many potentially harmful products, such as tree paper (the processing of which uses chlorine bleach), which results in the waste product polychlorinated dibensodioxins, popularly known as dioxins, which are carcinogenic, and contribute to deforestation, cosmetics, and plastics, most of which are petroleum-based and do not decompose easily. The strongest chemical needed to whiten the already light hemp paper is non-toxic hydrogen peroxide.
A long and very strong ‘bast’ fibre, hemp fibre has been used for thousands of years to manufacture clothing, twines, ropes and cordage, and is an excellent complement to fibres such as flax, silk, nettle and cotton in fabric blends.
So, Industrial Hemp can be a perfect substitute to tobacco and other cash crops. But as emphasized by some of the legislators, there should be massive civic education for Malawians to appreciate the difference between ‘chamba’ and Industrial Hemp. Not many Malawians will appreciate the difference at face value.
Remember one Joe Manduwa? He is credited for being the first Malawian MP to advocate for the legalization of marijuana. He was demonized in many quarters, including government for preaching alien stuff.
Manduwa may have been referring to Industrial Hemp, after all! But in the absence of adequate literature and civic education, he was ‘misunderstood’. We don’t want to misunderstand you, Hon. Boniface Kadzamira, Dr. Kumpalume and all. We’re tired of poverty.
Albinos: Parliament moves, Nkhoma Synod adds voice
On Sunday, a pastoral letter was read in all churches under the Nkhoma Synod of the CCAP. The main gist of the matter was the albino executions. The Church must be commended for adding its voice against this albino ‘brutality’.
The pastoral letter came a few days after Parliament also agreed that laws that directly relate to the killings of the albinos, such as the Anatomy Act, must be amended so that culprits suffer heavy punishment, including life sentences, when convicted.
Well and good! But let me say here without fear of contradiction that in most instances, criminals do not think about the kind of prison sentence their intended crime will attract. These are criminals bent on committing a crime and they just do it! For example, albino hunters and killers are concerned more about how rich they may get than how many years they would spend in the cooler by indulging in merciless killings of albinos.
So, while amending the laws to severely punish albino killers may go a long way to deter future killers, we ought to seriously work on adopting of ‘prevention is better than cure’ approach.
It is imperative that our government must work out a solid plan to fight poverty among citizens so that ‘lazy bones’ don’t merely think of killing fellow humans to get a better life. Legalization of the production of Industrial Hemp is surely one of the ways.
Malawi has always been a ‘land of milk and honey’. It is incumbent upon our leaders to be on course to inspire the people out of their poverty. Yes, there are always ‘valleys and mountains’ on this journey but with the right and inspiring leadership in place, we can make it happen; we can achieve.
The President and his government must create an enabling environment where people should be able to pursue their dreams with higher energy. Our leaders must instill a sense of ‘self-belief’ in the people where citizens are encouraged that whatever challenges we face, as a nation, there is a turnaround moment around the corner. This, they must be able to demonstrate through their actions.
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“Happiness is not something ready made. It comes from your own actions”- Dalai Lama