Malawi's parliament has drafted a bill targeted at legalising marijuana farming, both industrially and medicinally. The bill will be tabled before the country's national assembly very soon. This move comes on the heels of a decline in tobacco sales.
Tobacco accounts for 60% of foreign exchange earnings in Malawi, but after the impact of long-running anti-smoking campaigns led by organizations like the World Health Organization (WHO), the world has started to smoke less, and Malawi is feeling the impact.
Globally, tobacco sales have decreased over the years, and the world’s three biggest tobacco companies have each decreased by about 20% in market value this year. According to data, Altria, the US maker of Marlboro, is down 18%; and British American Tobacco is down 22%.
Cigarette smoking in the US fell to a record low in 2017, with just 14% of all American adults smoking — a 67% decline from 1965. Different stakeholders in the Malawi hemp industry have been calling on the government to speed up legislation to diversify the country’s revenue options.
Boniface Kadzamila, a member of parliament, says:
"We needed to have jumped on this window already, as it has been proven on the international market that the crop is lucrative, so to legalise this crop will be very vital for Malawi."
Growing hemp industrially can offer a lot of benefits to the Malawi economy: An acre with 2,500 plants can fetch up to $60,000 in the US, in states where hemp has been legalised; while on average, an acre of 2,500 tobacco plants fetches around $5,000 in Malawi.
Malawi also has some of the best climatic conditions to grow the crop, and now that the marijuana market is experiencing a near-global surge in growth, it feels like a no-brainer.
"This crop has Cannabidiol oil, which is in high demand and it is estimated that in the next three years the CBD oil we extract from the crop is poised to grow at over 700%."