Parliament has adopted a motion by Ntchisi North member of Parliament (MP) Boniface Kadzamira (Independent) for government to legalise cultivation and use of industrial hemp in the country.
However, some legislators emphasised the need for government to exercise caution on the issue, fearing some unscrupulous people could take advantage of the legislation to promote the growing of the illicit Indian hemp (marijuana/chamba).
In May last year, Kadzamira asked government to legalise industrial hemp, saying it was a viable alternative to boost the country’s foreign exchange earnings.
This week, Kadzamira moved that both at policy and legislation levels, the hemp should be recognised as an agricultural cash crop for industrial purposes distinct from other cannabis varieties.
He said: “Industrial hemp has been grown in some countries since the 1770s and it has proven a viable cash crop. Malawi needs this legislation to start enjoying the benefits that accrue from the growing and use of industrial hemp.”
Salima Central MP Felix Jumbe (Malawi Congress Party-MCP) said while he agreed with Kadzamira on the economic viability of industrial hemp, government needs to come up with measures to ensure the crop is not confused with the illicit Indian hemp.
He said because of its close relationship with Indian hemp, industrial hemp might easily be abused, in the process promoting the smoking of marijuana.
It was the second time an MP had proposed legalisation of Indian hemp. In April 2000, then deputy minister of Agriculture Joe Manduwa also surprised fellow legislators when he championed the same in Parliament.
In July last year, in the wake of Kadzamira’s proposal, Kemet Forum and other scholars organised a seminar to initiate an intellectual conversation on the issue.
In United States of America (USA), Colorado, Alaska and Washington States have made smoking, growing and owning small amounts of marijuana legal.
In Malawi, Indian hemp is illegal and those found cultivating, possessing or trading the same are arrested and prosecuted in courts of law.
Hardly a month passes without reports of bags and truckloads of impounded Indian hemp from traffickers, some of whom use uncharted routes or public transporter in some cases.
Indian hemp has several uses, including medicine where it has been used for easing pain and inducing sleep or for a soothing influence in nervous disorders, according to www.botanical.com. n