Malawi is ready to start commercial production and processing of cannabis for medicinal and industrial use, the southern African country’s new Cannabis Regulatory Authority said on Tuesday.
Malawi’s parliament passed a bill in February to allow legal cultivation and processing of cannabis for medicine and hemp fiber used in the industry but the bill stops short of decriminalizing recreational use.
Boniface Kadzamira, the board chair of Malawi’s regulator said his board received more than 100 applications for licensing which were under review.
The ministry of agriculture announced the license fees for cultivating, selling, storing, distributing either industrial and medicinal hemp, range from $100 to $10,000 a year.
Public hospitals will pay $100 and private hospitals will pay $200 as license fees to dispense cannabis medicines, according to the minister’s gazette date November 20.
“We have received an overwhelming response in terms of applications for licenses, but applicants must appreciate that we’ll not give everyone a license at once,” said Kadzamira.
According to the minister, hemp – a strain of the cannabis plant that contains little or no tetrahydrocannabinol, or THC, the substance that makes people high – has the potential to surpass earnings from tobacco, touted as the country’s main export crop.
“Our view as regulator is that if we get honest investors, the hemp industry can supplement export revenues from tobacco, and in some cases, surpass it. But it will not immediately replace tobacco,” he added.
Malawi’s earnings from tobacco have fallen dramatically over the years in part due to declining demand and poor weather.
The fall has drastically affected the country’s tobacco auctioneer, Auction Holdings Ltd, which has failed to pay salaries for the last two months.
A growing number of countries around the world are either legalizing or relaxing laws on cannabis as attitudes towards the drug change. They include several in southern Africa, including Zambia, Lesotho and Zimbabwe.