Malawi is ready to start commercial production and processing of cannabis for medicinal and industrial use, the Southern African country’s new Cannabis Regulatory Authority said on Tuesday.
Malawi’s parliament passed a bill in February that makes it legal to cultivate and process cannabis for medicines and hemp fibre used in industry but stops short of decriminalising recreational use.
A growing number of countries around the world are either legalising or relaxing laws on cannabis as attitudes towards the drug change. They include several in Southern Africa, including Zambia, Lesotho and Zimbabwe.
The board chair of Malawi’s regulator, Boniface Kadzamira stated that his board had received more than 100 applications for licensing which were under review. The agriculture ministry on Friday announced the license fees, which will range from $100 to $10,000 a year for the cultivation, selling, storage, distribution of either class of industrial and medicinal hemp.
Boniface mentioned that a strain of the cannabis plant that contains little or no tetrahydrocannabinol which is the substance that makes people high has the potential to surpass earnings from tobacco, touted as the country’s main export crop.
Malawi’s earnings from tobacco have fallen dramatically over the years because of declining demand and poor weather which is why it wants to focus on cannabis. During the 2020 season, Malawi’s tobacco output fell by 31.3%, resulting in a 26.4% decline in the country’s overall tobacco revenues.