Minister of Agriculture Lobin Lowe has indicated that his ministry plans to ask Parliament to amend some laws to allow production of local cannabis varieties to maximise export earnings.
This comes at a time the country has been debating over a recent conviction of an 18-year-old boy in Blantyre who was found in possession of cannabis and handed an eight-year jail term.
However, the cannabis Regulation Act 2020 promotes production of Cannabis only for medicinal, industrial and scientific use and does not in any manner advocate, authorise, promote or legally or socially accept the use of cannabis for recreational uses.
In an interview on the side-lines of a visit to commercial tobacco growers in the Southern Region, Lowe said, as Parliament meets this July, issues prohibiting production of the local varieties will be discussed.
“There was a lot of hype when we introduced production of industrial hemp such that we thought most farmers will drop growing regular tobacco to this variety; unfortunately, cannabis is also market-oriented just like tobacco. Unless we get demand, that is when we know how much to produce. So, the demand we have as a starting point is just too little.
“We are trying to promote some investors and off-takers to come to Malawi to make sure that whatever we produce is all bought. We also talked about our local variety and there are issues with our laws. Come July, once Parliament meets, we should be able to sort out issues in the Act to make sure that our local variety is also produced,” Lowe said.
In a recent interview, the ministry’s spokesperson Grecian Lungu indicated that the research department was tasked to look into the necessities of producing the local variety widely.
“There is progress as collection of strains of our local cannabis is on-going, but I cannot confirm as to when the studies will be concluded,” Lungu said.
In an interview, agriculturalist Leonard Chimwaza wondered about the aim of legalising production of local cannabis varieties claiming the economic value could be the same as that of industrial hemp.
“While conducting research, there is a need to incorporate stakeholders from various sectors such as those from the health ministry, the police and other necessary sectors; they should not only focus on the economic value. Also, does it mean that the local cannabis varieties are more economical than industrial hemp? So what are their assumptions and what is the composition of the research committee? That is crucial,” Chimwaza said.