Minister of Agriculture, Irrigation and Water Development Kondwani Nankhumwa has said government through the Agriculture Extension Services department would embark in a civic education campaign to sensitise the masses the difference between the legalised industrial hemp and the illegal Indian Hemp for recreation commonly known among Malawians as Chamba.
Nankhumwa, who tabled the Cannabis Regulation Bill, legalising the growing of cannabis, a crop that could supplement the tobacco industry, which has been the country’s economic mainstay, said the legislation was long overdue.
Lawmakers unanimously passed the new law legalising the farming, importing and exporting of cannabis for medicinal and industrial use.
The legislation will also see the establishment of the Cannabis Regulatory Authority (CRA) to be responsible for licensing and regulating medicinal and industrial hemp programmes.
The CRA will be tasked with issuing licences to cultivate process, store, sell, export and distribute cannabis.
Nankhumwa said the process will be “implemented swiftly.”
Commentators and stakeholders have said making right moves in terms of implementation of the cannabis project will make the country thrive and prow the economy.
Chauncy Jere, a director of Ikaros Africa, one of the two companies conducting industrial hemp trials in Central Malawi, expressed delight with the passing of the Bill.
“We are very happy that finally we’re taking the right steps to move the country’s economy forwards,” Jere said.
“There’s no denying that cannabis would be a lucrative industry and its demand is huge,” said Jere, who is spokesman for the Hemp Association of Malawi.
Financial crimes expert Jai Banda lauded parliament’s decision as government has for years lost out on valuable tax revenue.
“Cannabis is mainly cultivated in remote areas, mainly for export to surrounding countries such as South Africa, Kenya and the overseas market. Trade is organised by professional traffickers,” Banda said.
“It has been a long journey but here we are. I guess we will be able to export and thereby earn the much needed forex. This is a path in the right direction.”
Malawi is one of the poorest countries in the world and has long relied on tobacco which brings in around 60 percent of foreign exchange earnings.
Several countries have decriminalised the growing and use of medicinal cannabis.
Cannabis has for many years been illegally grown in remote parts of Malawi and smuggled out of the country.
The grade is popularly known as “Malawi gold”.
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