Minister of Agriculture, Irrigation and Water Development Kondwani Nankhumwa hopes the new legislation decriminalising cannabis for medicinal and industrial purposes will help in economic diversification and an alternative cash crop to tobacco.
The economic potential of the fast-growing global medicinal and industrial cannabis industry has been the main driver of the law change in Malawi.
Nankhumwa tabled the Cannabis Regulation Billin Palriament to distinguish the criminalised Indian hemp from medicinal cannabis through regulation of research, cultivation, production, processing, possession, storage, export, sale, distribution, use and its products for medicinal, industrial or scientific purposes under prescribed conditions.
“For a long time, Malawi has relied on tobacco as the main source of foreign exchange, contributing over 60 percent to the Gross Domestic Product (GDP). But demand for tobacco has drastically dwindled over the years due to international anti-smoking lobby, bringing about an urgent need to diversify to other cash crops.
“We believe cannabis can be an effective substitute to tobacco, in the long term,” said Nankhuma in an interview.
With the new law, there will be an establishment of the Cannabis Regulatory Authority (CRA) to be responsible for licensing and regulating medicinal and industrial hemp programmes.
Nankhumwa said the Ministry of Agriculture, Irrigation and Water Development through the Agricultural Extension Services department would embark on a civic education campaign to sensitise the masses to the difference between the allowed industrial hemp and the illegal Indian hemp commonly known among Malawians.
Former deputy minister of agriculture Joe Manduwa in the president Bakili Muluzi administration (United Democratic Front – UDF) was the first to table the issue of legalising the cultivation, processing and marketing of industrial hemp for which he was labelled crazy.
It was then picked up later by Boniface Kadzamira, former Ntchisi North legislator Boniface Kadzamira who tabled the topic in 2015.
Kadazamira also agrres with Nankhumwa that cannabis will “in the long run replace tobacco to become our major cash crop – that will contribute hugely to the GDP.”
He explained that the industry will create employment opportunities in the farming and industrial sectors.
Agriculture offers employment to nearly 80% of Malawi’s population. Tobacco is the country’s major export, and the global decline in its use has impacted the economy.
Malawi’s tobacco industry is also marred by exploitation, as international companies such as British American Tobacco have sought cheap labour – including child labour – and
Cannabis, which can thrive in dry conditions, is a good fit for Malawi’s climate, which has been impacted by the southern African drought.Follow and Subscribe Nyasa TV :