Aspiring Malawi cannabis growers are protesting licensing fees for hemp and marijuana released by the government’s new Cannabis Regulatory Authority (CRA) last week. Critics say the licenses, which range in fees from $100 to $10,000 for such activities as farming and crop sales, processing, storage, export and distribution, would limit the crop to large corporations while cutting out individuals and small companies.
Sameer Suleman, who chairs the parliamentary Committee on Agriculture has urged the authority to revisit the fee structure after an uproar on social media by potential industry participants who say the fees will block indigenous Malawians from cultivating cannabis crops.
Ketimo Salipira, acting director general of the CRA defended the proposed fee structure, saying the authority expects farmers to share costs by operating in cooperatives. Nonetheless, Salipira said the authority will review the fee structure.
CRA said more than 100 appllcations have been received since the country passed a cannabis law in February 2020, legalizing farming and processing of cannabis for medicines and hemp fibre for industrial applications. The measure did not decriminalize recreational use of marijuana.
“We have received an overwhelming response in terms of applications for licences, but applicants must appreciate that we’ll not give everyone a license at once,” said Boniface Kadzamira, CRA chairman.
Replacement for tobacco?
Proponents in Malawi have said hemp alone has the potential to surpass earnings from tobacco, the country’s main export crop. “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,” Kadzamira said.
Malawi joins southern African nations of South Africa, Zambia, Lesotho and Zimbabwe who are exploring or have already established programs to develop marijuana and hemp sectors.