Legislators in Malawi have passed a bill to legalize cannabis as the country aims at reducing its reliance on tobacco.
It becomes the latest country in southern Africa to relax laws against the growing and selling of cannabis, making it legal for use in the production of medicines and hemp fibers used in the industry.
In a session on Thursday, parliament passed the Cannabis Regulation Bill which seeks to distinguish between the criminalized Indian hemp from medicinal cannabis.
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The bill, which was first championed by former legislator Boniface Kadzamira and tabled by Agriculture Minister Kondwani Nankhumwa, was not decriminalized for recreational purposes.
A number of countries have adopted legalizing cannabis. In 2017, Lesotho became the first country in the Southern Region to legalize cannabis. Since then, Zambia, Zimbabwe, and South Africa have legalized production for export.
South Africa, however, has decriminalized domestic personal use, and is in the process of lifting a ban on commercial cultivation of the plant, according to Reuters.
“We are very happy that finally, we’re taking the right steps to move the country’s economy forwards,” Chauncy Jere, a director of Ikaros Africa, one of the two companies conducting industrial hemp trials in Central Malawi, told Reuters.
“There’s no denying that cannabis would be a lucrative industry and its demand is huge,” said Jere, who is spokesman for the Hemp Association of Malawi.