Malawi Parliament Considering Legalizing The Cultivation of Cannabis

    In a pivotal move, Malawi’s parliament is currently in talks around legislation to authorize the cultivation of cannabis, also known locally as “chamba.” The proposed aim is to bolster the nation’s foreign exchange earnings, although opposition from anti-drug advocates looms large.

    During a session on Thursday, Malawian lawmaker Peter Dimba presented compelling arguments in favor of the initiative. Dimba highlighted the significant international demand for locally grown cannabis, emphasizing its potential to generate substantial revenue for the country.

    Dimba stated, “Studies have indicated that the cultivation of chamba could potentially yield up to $200 million annually in its initial stages. As the industry matures, this figure could soar to an impressive $700 million, more than double the current earnings from tobacco sales.”

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    Historically, Malawi has heavily relied on tobacco, which contributes approximately 13% to its gross domestic product and constitutes 60% of its foreign exchange earnings. However, diminishing tobacco prices, largely due to anti-smoking campaigns and the established link between tobacco use and cancer, have spurred the exploration of alternative agricultural avenues.


    In 2020, Malawi took a progressive step by enacting legislation permitting the cultivation of industrial hemp as a tobacco farming alternative. However, farmers report that industrial hemp hasn’t met expectations, citing difficulties in finding buyers. Mathews Osman, leading a cooperative of industrial hemp farmers, noted the heightened market interest in cannabis due to its psychoactive component, THC.

    Osman further emphasized the practical challenges faced with industrial hemp, such as expensive imported seeds, contrasting with the anticipation of cheaper seeds for local cannabis varieties.

    Patrick Galawanda, spokesperson for Malawi’s Rastafarian community, voiced hope that legalizing cannabis would prevent unjust arrests of Rastafarians using the substance for spiritual and medicinal purposes.

    Conversely, Nelson Zakeyu, representing Drug Fight Malawi, expressed concerns over the legalization of cannabis, citing its addictive and harmful nature, particularly among teenagers. Zakeyu referenced research indicating a surge in teenage cannabis use following the legalization of industrial hemp.

    In response to these divergent perspectives, Richard Chimwendo Banda, leader of government lawmakers, underscored the government’s cautious approach. Banda stressed the dual responsibility of safeguarding the youth while maximizing economic opportunities.

    As the debate unfolds, lawmakers continue to refine the proposed legislation on cannabis cultivation, with the timeline for a vote yet to be determined.