Legal status of hemp in Malawi: How govt decides which drugs are regulated or banned

The Malawi Government uses what is called the drug scheduling system. Under the Dangerous Drugs Act (Cap 35: 02) of the Laws of Malawi, there are three schedules of controlled substances known as Parts which weigh a drug’s medical value and its abuse potential.

Rastafarian man smoking cannabis

Rastafarian man smoking cannabis

A controlled substance is therefore placed in its schedule (Part) based on its medical value and potential for abuse. In Malawi, a medical value is typically evaluated based on scientific research particularly large-scale clinical trials conducted in western countries.

Abuse is considered to be a case whereby individuals consume a substance on their own initiative (without prescription from a licensed medical practitioner), leading to personal health hazards or dangers to society as a whole.

Under this scheduling system as stipulated in the Dangerous Drugs Act, Part 1 and 2 drugs are considered to have literally no medical value and high potential for abuse. Part 3 drugs are recognized to have some potential for abuse but enormous medical value. Hence the general public is allowed to access and consume Part 3 drugs only with a prescription issued by a licensed medical practitioner.

It may be helpful to think of the scheduling system as made up of two distinct groups: nonmedical and medical. The nonmedical group is the Part 1 and 2 drugs, which are considered to have no medical value but aren’t numerically ranked based on abuse potential. The medical group is the Part 3 drugs which are recognized to have some medical value.

Cannabis and raw opium are Part 1 drugs while prepared opium is in Part 2. So the Malawi Government considers cannabis and opium (raw and prepared) to have a potential for abuse and no medical value. Hencethesedrugsmustalways bekeptawayfromthereachofthegeneralpublicandevenmedical practitioners/researchersonthegroundsthatthesedrugsareexceedinglydangerous June 2015.

Whereasmedicinal opium, medicinal cocaine and medicinal morphine are Part 3 drugs.

In contrast, alcohol and tobacco are exclusively exempted from this scheduling system.

Alcohol and tobacco are the deadliest drugs not cannabis

  1. Alcohol is currently the second deadliest drug in USA. It is topped only by another legal substance called ‘tobacco’ which in USA alone causes anastonishing500,000 deaths each year
  2. No other drugcomes close to the staggering fatalities of alcohol and tobacco. Heroin, which has consumed widespread media attention in the past few years, was linked to fewer than 9,000 death in 2013 in USA.
  3. Marijuana, another drug that Malawi Government including some health practitioners have persistently warned that it is alarmingly dangerous to individuals and society has caused zero overdose death globally in the past thousand years!

Other countries, like the UK, USA and Australia, use similar scheduling systems, although their specific rankings for some drugs differ.

Anomaly with Malawi Government’s scheduling system

Unlike Industrial hemp (one variety of cannabis), besides containing tetrahydro cannabinol (THC) a psycho effect compound which makes people high when they smoke, marijuana as another variety of cannabis (distinct from industrial hemp) also contains a compound called cannabidiol (CBD). CBD possesses amazing and enormous therapeutic properties. Unlike THC, CBD is also medically proven to be non-psychoactive.

Just because it is associated with cannabis (particularly the marijuana variety), as far as the Dangerous Drugs Act is concerned, CBD remains illegal to possess or use as a medicine, and nearly impossible to use in clinical trials.

Hence the classification of cannabis as Part 1 substance is grossly inappropriate.

Key recommendations/Way forward

  1. Other than bundle all varieties of cannabis in one basket, at policy and legislation levelthe distinction must be clearly drawn between the following two varieties of cannabis namely:
  2. Industrial hemp: which is a raw material and contains little or no THC hence one cannot get the pleasure of smoking it to het high.

Despite long prohibition of all varieties of cannabis in Malawi, over 20,000 scientific studies published within the last 10 years have overwhelmingly confirmed that industrial hemp actually contains enormous economic and nutritional values.

There are new technologies which allow Industrial hemp as a raw material to be processed into bio-degradable plastics, construction materials, car/air craft body parts, clothing, oil, fuel, food, ropes, paper and many more important items.

  1. Marijuana: which has high levels of THC that makes one high after smoking but also contains CBD which has enormous medicinal properties;
  2. At both policy and legislation level, Industrial hemp must be appropriately recognized as an agricultural/cash crop owing to the enormous values it has as a raw material;

Despite believing that this would lead to a rise in use among teenagers, research carried out by Dr Deborah Hasin, professor of epidemiology at Columbia University Medical Center in New York, and her colleagues dismissed these concerns, according to their paper in the journal Lancet Psychiatry.

After analysing data from a national study called Monitoring the Future, which collects information from 50,000 pupils aged13 to 18every year, they found there had not been a rise in use.

Dr Hasin said: “Our findings provide the strongest evidence to date that marijuana use by teenagers does not increase after a state legalises medical marijuana. Rather, up to now, in the states that passed medical marijuana laws, adolescent marijuana use was already higher than in other states.”

  1. At both policy and legislation level, marijuana must then be re-scheduled (not legalized whole sale) from being Part 1 substance to Part 3 owing to its enormous medicinal values which have been unearthed by overwhelming scientific research.
  • Prepared by Paliani CHINGUWO for purposes of discussion at a Proposed Seminar on Cannabis-Chancellor College.
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Go to area 10 and see what bosses children are growing there They sell it to azungu in the same neighbourhood By the way whydoes the police not arrest the boys who roam, smoke chamba and drink sachets at are 10 PTC

Mike kanyerere
the large scale clinical trials done in the west cost 550 DOLLARS per person per year hence over ten billion franks (dollars) legalize every aspect of this with great care. i would not mind a hemp roof on my dilapidated house and and a boat to carry tourists around the lake maybe even use my house as a back packers lodge rise and shine Malawi some one said something about only lienced growers should do this. Stop right there with that thought when the the rain falls t don’t fall on one mans land do not put politics into this… Read more »

Let chamba be grown by licenced growers only

alick fwaya nkhatabay boy

Tavomerezani aboma inu nkhatabay ndi nkhotakota alemere mwana mtonga ndiyu mwenecho wachamba

Rodgers Banda

Build more mental hospitals before ligalising it. More crimes from drug abuse will be hard to control. More income from exports will be spent on jails and mental wards. Future generations will be aliens not Malawians.

Suzgo Kamanga.
Nkhani iyi ndiyofunika kudekha nayo osati kusamala. Chifukwa kungotegera anthu ochita nayo phokoso nkhaniyi,sitipeza chenicheni poti ndi achambanso. Let’s not just copy from other developed countries and implement it here. Mind you developed countries have all what it takes to control things,nonetheless bandidity is rampant. They even sometimes plant CCTV camera on lampposts or trees where you wouldn’t think of.

If you legalize it, make sure mumange zipatala zambiri za anthu amisala ndi ndende zawo, zamveka izi?


It is good not to rush at demonizing all the Hemp in general,we need to revisit our laws & carefully classify & legitimatise the usefull one especially the industrial hemp,which will support the nation as an export cashcrop


chamba is not a drug for de point of colletion,,,wat we need is legalisation

Noel Zacharia

‘Copy and paste’ will surely send us to our graves prematurely. How could we just copied from western laws without critically initiating debate for our learned sons and daughters to help us make a wise decision on our own. We cannot continue forcing people to live in the past when the present on their doorstep is very promissing. The writing is already on the way; reconsider the status of cannabis or the masses will have no choice but to re-consider your status and the policy making office you are holding

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