On Thursday the 27th of February 2020, the Malawian parliament passed a bill into law that legalised the cultivation of cannabis in the country for medical and industrial use. This means that cannabis, also called Marijuana, would be legally cultivated for the production of medicines and hemp fibres in the industry.
Responding to an interview, Chauncy Jere, Director of Ikaros Africa and spokesman for Hemp Association of Malawi said: “there’s no denying that cannabis would be a lucrative industry and its demand is huge.” He further stated that the event forms “right steps to move the country’s economy forward.”
The bill was sponsored in the parliament by Kondwani Nankhumwa, the Minister of Agriculture. With this new passage, the Southern African country joins a league of other African countries that have taken conscious steps to tap into the economic potentials of the plant. Some of these countries have either relaxed the laws that criminalise the use of the plant or have completely legalised the cultivation of the plant. They include Lesotho, South Africa, Zimbabwe, Swaziland and Morocco.
This decision is also important because it will help the Malawian economy to bounce back from the contraction experienced in tobacco export – its main foreign earner – between 2017 to 2019. The tobacco industry had experienced a decline in demands as major players like British Tobacco and Altria gave up about 20 percent of their market value. This new law would be placing the plant as a key foreign earner for Malawi.
Cannabis plants have been grown since at least the 3rd millennium BCE. It is mostly used for recreation or as a medicinal drug. In 2013, it was estimated that about 2.7 percent to 4.9 percent of the global population (128 and 232 million people between the ages of 15 and 60) consumed.
Recognised by its consumers and tourists as the Malawian Gold, Cannabis grows more often on its own. It also serves as a source of employment for a large percentage of women and children who cultivate in rural areas, in addition to the men who handle the marketing of the crop.
Malawi is one of the largest producers of cannabis in Southern Africa. The Country has some of the best species of cannabis in the world which makes it out-play marijuana grown in other countries in terms of sales and relevance. Malawian cannabis has now flooded the marijuana markets in Kenya, Tanzania, and many other locales.
Cannabis is also used for spiritual purposes in Malawi. For years now, Malawi’s large Rastafarian community has been calling for the legalisation of the cultivation, supply and possession of marijuana. This is because smoking the plant is seen as a key tenet of the Rastafari movement. However, this new law does not state whether it can accommodate their demands.