Parliament has given the nod to Ntchisi North member of Parliament (MP) Boniface Kadzamira (Independent) to draft a bill whose objective is to distinguish the criminalised Indian hemp from medicinal cannabis through cultivation, production and possession.
Kadzamira moved a motion for the House to allow him to draft the bill following vigorous consultations which have proved that cannabis can improve the country’s economy if well regulated and legalised.
In an interview after the motion was accepted, Kadzamira said his motion was a move in the right direction, saying there is need to define the terms rightly, hinting that the bill will encompass two varieties of cannabis—industrial and medicinal.
He said: “The bill will encompass the two varieties, thus the industrial hemp and medicinal cannabis, but before it is tabled, it will go to five committees for scrutiny. At that stage we will know what Malawians will want to be included in the bill.”
Kadzamira said he will seek advice from the Legal Department of Parliament on how to go about the bill which he hopes will be presented in the House next Thursday.
Many MPs, both government and opposition, supported the motion but warned that there should be vigorous research and right definitions of cannabis to avoid confusion with the hemp that is an illegal substance.
Blantyre West MP Peter Kumpalume (Democratic Progressive Party-DPP) said the country needs to move fast to adopt some technologies and inventions, one of which being hemp but said it has to be done cautiously.
“We need to move fast. I know there is money and a lot of benefits. We need research and to change the laws so that there won’t be abuse. I, therefore, support the motion,” he said.
Responding to the motion, Minister of Agriculture, Irrigation and Water Development Joseph Mwanamvekha said even though the move seems good, an extensive research needs to be done.
“This motion on chamba is quite sensitive. It requires extensive research because it is a plant which needs a lot of analysis and proper consultation so that whatever comes out will be beneficial to the country,” he said.
Parliament gave a go-ahead for industrial hemp trials at Chitedze Research Station and in Salima. The studies are still ongoing on whether it can become a viable export product after Kadzamira moved a motion for such some three years ago.
Three weeks ago, Principal Secretary in the Ministry of Agriculture, Irrigation and Water Development, Gray Nyandule Phiri said in an interview that results for the trials of the industrial hemp are ready for analysis by Cabinet.
He said after three years of trial, the ministry is ready with the results which cannot be shared to the public yet.
Industrial hemp is the non-narcotic form of cannabis and is not psychoactive due to the low levels of tetrayhydrocannibinol (THC).
Different stakeholders in the hemp industry have been calling on government to speed up the process of legalising the growing of the hemp to make Malawi have an alternative forex earner apart from tobacco.
Currently, Zimbabwe, Morrocco and South Africa are reported to have legalised the growing of industrial hemp in Africa.
It is estimated that a kilogramme of industrial hemp fetches about K32 000 on the market and that there is potential direct annual benefit to Malawians in excess of K3 billion on 16.5 hectares or K195 million per five hectares.