Ntchisi North member of Parliament (MP) Boniface Kadzamira (Malawi Congress Party) yesterday stunned the National Assembly when he asked government to legalise the sale of chamba (Indian hemp or marijuana), saying it is a viable alternative to boost the country’s foreign exchange earnings.
In his reaction to the report of the Committee on Commissions, Statutory Authorities and State Enterprises on the activities of the committee tabled in Parliament, Kadzamira said Malawi stands to benefit more if Indian hemp was legalised.
“Mr Speaker Sir, an acre of [Indian] hemp produces more paper than wood pulp or tree. Apart from paper, you can produce, from hemp, fibre, fabric, soap, lighting oil, medicines, food oil and proteins for both humans and animals,” he said, attracting laughter from other MPs.
According to Kadzamira, some States in the United States of America (USA) have already started legalising use of the product.
This is the second time an MP has proposed legalisation of Indian hemp. In April 2000 then deputy minister of Agriculture Joe Manduwa also surprised MPs when he championed the same in Parliament.
According to Manduwa, Malawi stood to gain a great deal from cultivating the plant, which, he said, was a much-sought-after commodity on the world market.
“Indian hemp has other important uses that can earn this country a lot of foreign exchange, as happens in other countries that have already taken strides in this direction,” Manduwa was quoted as having said.
Minister of Agriculture, Irrigation and Water Development Allan Chiyembekeza was not in Parliament yesterday when Kadzamira raised the issue.
However, when called for comment on the matter, he said government does not take opinions as policies.
Said Chiyembekeza: “I have no comment on this. What he [Kadzamira] said was his opinion and we do not take such [opinions] as policies, thank you.”
In 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, in possession 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 unchartered routes or public transport, in some cases.
Indian hemp has several uses, included in 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.