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Malawi losing millions of export earnings from untapped ‘Malawi Gold’



In the high-density neighbourhood of Chinsapo in the Malawian capital of Lilongwe, Rastafarian priest Storm Jericho Kadondo carefully uproots the weeds surrounding a cannabis plant he is secretly growing behind the fence of his house.

“As a Rastafarian I grow at least a tree of cannabis for meditational use. But I have to grow the holy tree in secret because it is illegal to grow it here,” says Kadondo who is the executive director of the Rastafarian Fellowship Association.

All forms of cannabis cultivation – from marijuana, which contains higher levels of the psychoactive compound THC and is used for medicinal and recreational purposes, to hemp, which has negligible levels of THC and numerous industrial uses – are illegal in Malawi. However, the country is reputed to be one of the biggest producers of the plant in southern Africa. And Malawi Gold, a particularly potent strain of marijuana (known locally as chamba), is beloved by cannabis connoisseurs the world over.

For years now Malawi’s sizeable Rastafarian community has been calling for the legalisation of the cultivation, supply and possession of marijuana as smoking the plant is seen as a key tenet of the Rastafari movement. Now their once fringe demands are going mainstream as the price of tobacco, which accounts for approximately 60 per cent of Malawi’s foreign earnings, has plunged on the global market.

In tandem, growing international support for the decriminalisation and legalisation of cannabis is having an impact on the way the plant is perceived. There has been particularly strong support for the legalisation of hemp, which can be used to produce a variety of commercial products ranging from textiles to cosmetics.

“Malawi is losing millions of dollars in export earnings as the global community takes a strong stance against tobacco smoking. The Rasta community believes that the legalisation of marijuana cultivation can turn around the country’s economic fortunes,” Kadondo tells Equal Times. In 2018, auction prices for Malawi’s tobacco farmers were US$1.58 per kilogram; cannabis can fetch 30 times that amount.

Kadondo, says the Rastafarian Fellowship Association has written to the Malawi Law Commission and the Malawi Human Rights Commission to urge the government to follow in the footsteps of countries like Uruguay and Canada by legalising all forms of cannabis.

“Marijuana has many vital properties. The plant has cannabidiol oil [commonly known as CBD or hemp oil] which is in high demand because of its curative elements,” says Kadondo.

Ras Chikomeni Chirwa agrees. The musician and farmer became an overnight celebrity earlier this year after he attempted to run in the country’s presidential elections which takes place this May. Although Chirwa was disqualified because he didn’t meet some of the basic requirements for a nominee, his promise to legalise cannabis won him many supporters.

“The government is failing to make a clear stand on marijuana cultivation,” he tells Equal Times. “The government is acting like cannabis is a new substance, yet it has been used to cure a wide range of diseases for many generations and offers economic opportunities for the country.”

The economic potential of cannabis, despite price slumps

According to a 2011 World Bank report, the trade in marijuana accounts for approximately 0.2 per cent of Malawi’s annual GDP. And while the wholesale prices of marijuana in the some US states (a major global market for cannabis) fell by as much as 50 per cent between 2017 and 2018 due to the high volume of growers flooding the market, cannabis research firm Brightfield Group projects that the legal cannabis market could expand by as much as 60 per cent by 2021, to US$31.4 billion. Such a development could present a huge opportunity for countries like Malawi, where agricultural commodities account for 80 per cent of all exports and agriculture accounts for 80 per cent of all jobs.

The move to legalise cannabis in Malawi took a massive leap forward last December when parliament approved a proposal by Boniface Kadzamira, an independent MP for Ntchisi North in central Malawi, to draft a bill which would allow for the cultivation, production and possession of industrial hemp and marijuana for medical use. While parliament gave the go-ahead for industrial hemp trials, legislators are currently discussing the proposed bill.

This isn’t the first time Malawi’s parliament has debated the legalisation of cannabis. Joe Manduwa, a former deputy agricultural minister, was the first parliamentarian to champion the legal cultivation of industrial hemp back in April 2000. It is a stance he still maintains today.

Legalised hemp cultivation would turn around the country’s economy as it is cheaper to cultivate as compared to tobacco, yet it fetches good prices on the international market,” says Manduwa.

He says it could also help create new jobs, in a country where poverty levels continue to increase: “We are complaining of high rates of unemployment in the country yet if marijuana is legalised it could bring jobs to the youth who are idly walking our streets,” says Manduwa.

He is, however, quick to point out that there is an urgent need for a civic campaign to educate people on the differences between industrial hemp and marijuana.

Similar sentiments are shared by British investor Tanya Clarke who manages the National Industrial Hemp Association of Malawi and has been leading research into industrial hemp cultivation in the country since 2015.

“[Many] Malawians align themselves to religion, and the advocacy of industrial hemp legalisation has suffered because it has been argued on a religious angle. Additionally, many Malawians have challenges in the access to information and this information gap has made them to only look at the negative sides of hemp cultivation,” says Clarke.

However, anti-drug activists continue to warn that by relaxing the rules around industrial hemp cultivation, growers are likely to abuse the law by growing marijuana which could increase drug use amongst youth in the country

“It is true that we might be enticed to go for industrial hemp for the economic benefits, however we also have to consider the social and moral impacts that the legalisation of marijuana could have on the nation,” says Nelson Bazwell Zakeyo, the executive director of Drug Fight Malawi. Anti-legalisation campaigners such as Zakeyo warn that the negative impact of frequent marijuana use can range from a decline in cognitive function to psychotic disorders.

Dr Hetherwick Ntaba, a medical doctor and former foreign minister (1993 to 1994) who supported the legalisation of hemp cultivation when it was first introduced to parliament by Manduwa almost 19 years ago, argues that there is a lot of misinformation surrounding the use of marijuana, and that there is no scientific proof that it is any more dangerous or addictive than controlled substances such as tobacco and alcohol.

“The problem with us Malawians is that we are too conservative and we are treating hemp as a new substance. Those that are in opposition to hemp cultivation argue it would increase crime rates, but this argument lacks logic. The benefits of legalisation outweigh the negatives.”



SAHPRA Issues Africa’s First License to Conduct Psilocybin Clinical Trials; Aim is to Treat Depressed Women who are HIV Positive



Cannsun receives SAHPRA go ahead for psilocybin clinical trials

The South African Health Products Regulatory Authority (SAHPRA) has issued Africa’s first license allowing psilocybin to be used in clinical trials. Mutinational cannabis company Cannsun, which has a major grow-op at Atlantis in the Western Cape, said in a press release on 14 April 2022 that SAHPRA had given it the go-ahead “to commence an in-human women’s specific clinical trial to evaluate a safety and efficacy of psilocybin in 30 HIV positive study participants suffering from Major Depressive Disorder.”


Cannsun describes itself as a “bio-pharmaceutical company focused on developing and commercializing new medicines to optimize human potential with operations in South Africa and Thailand.”


Donaghue Woodman, Head of Research and Development at Cannsun Group PLC says:
“It is vitally important to have a deeper understanding of how woman respond to medical treatment for major depression versus men in order to develop psychedelic therapies and treatment protocols for women that have clinically significant outcomes that are safe and effective. This research to be conducted in South Africa follows a globally renewed interest in psychedelics aimed at exploring the treatment benefits of these previously misunderstood compounds.” 

Mental health disorders are one of the leading causes of disease burden in the world, according to a 30-year global systematic analysis published in Lancet Psychiatry. As MDD is one of the more prevalent co-morbidities in HIV and in women, where an estimated 7.7 million people are living with HIV in South Africa, the trial will to be conducted in an all-female HIV positive group. Women have previously been underrepresented in clinical trials related to mental health, trials where women were included, the published results were not gender specific.


SA Trials to be done by TASK

Cannsun Medicinals has contracted TASK, a South African-based clinical research institute to conduct the clinical trial.

TASK is a multinational clinical research institute which conducts clinical trials to determine the treatment effects of novelties in healthcare and offers services in conducting complex clinical trials in a wide variety of therapeutic areas.

Established in 2005, TASK is a renowned research specialist organization in infectious diseases, most notably in tuberculosis, COVID-19 treatment and vaccines and has been published and mentioned in several leading journals, notably in the New England Journal of Medicine. Similarly, TASK’s founder Professor Andreas Diacon has been celebrated by the Bill and Melinda Gate’s Foundation as a ‘hero in the field’ for his contribution to TB drug development.

“The TASK team are proud to have been selected by the Cannsun group to conduct this ground-breaking trial, first in our unique African population. We look forward to making progress in the treatment of mental health disorders and to the influence this trial may have in generating further investment in psychiatric research with innovative compounds.” Duncan McDonald, Head of Business Development at TASK.


Stellenbosch University closely involved in upcoming psilocybin clinical trials

TASK will work in conjunction with Soraya Seedat, a distinguished Professor of Psychiatry and Executive Head of the Department of Psychiatry at Stellenbosch University. She has more than 20 years of clinical, epidemiological and basic neuroscience research experience as a psychiatrist.

She has also been the recipient of several awards including the World Federation of the Society of Biological Psychiatry Fellowship, the Lundbeck Institute Fellowship Award in Psychiatry, an MRC mid-career award, research fellowship from the University of California San Diego, the Anxiety Disorders Association of America Career Development Award, the Humboldt Research Award in memory of Neville Alexander, the Chancellor’s Award for Research from Stellenbosch University and an MRC Gold Merit Award.

“Mental health is a global pursuit, and we are hopeful this research may bring advancement of treatment of depression and anxiety illness. Our research will be conducted in South Africa where women’s heath in a clinical setting is underrepresented, 25% of the adult women population between ages 15-49 are HIV positive. Our R&D team at Cannsun aim to further advance medical treatments in South Africa utilizing emerging medicines.” David Parry, Chief Executive Officer at Cannsun Group PLC.

The post SAHPRA Issues Africa’s First License to Conduct Psilocybin Clinical Trials; Aim is to Treat Depressed Women who are HIV Positive appeared first on Cannabiz Africa.

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Zimbabwe Tobacco Board Tells 145,000 Tobacco Farmers: “A Quarter of Your Income Must Come from Hemp by 2025”



Meanwell Gudu says tobacco demand declining, farmers must look to hemp

Anticipated demand for cannabis is projected to continue to grow while tobacco output globally may decline 15% by 2030, according to Meanwell Gudu, the CEO of Zimbabwe’s Tobacco Industry and Marketing Board.

“One of the alternative crops we are looking at is industrial hemp,” he told Bloomberg’s Ray Ndlovu by phone on 4 April 2022

The board has 145,000 registered tobacco growers, who started selling 2022’s crop at auctions last week. Farmers will be encouraged to plant cannabis so that a quarter of their income comes from the plant by 2025, Gudu said. 

“It’s a crop that requires attention to detail, just like tobacco, and we are confident that they will have the skills,” he said. “We want to be part of the entire industrial hemp chain.”

The board will look for export markets for industrial hemp including in China, the EU and will also seek to develop a local market, Gudu said.

Zimbabwe first major hemp export deal – 30 tons to Switzerland

The country exported 30 tonnes of industrial hemp to Switzerland in 2022, its first foray into the European market, said Zorodzai Maroveke, the founder of the Zimbabwe Industrial Hemp Trust. The group is partnering with the tobacco board to facilitate the “smooth transition” to cannabis for commercial purposes. 

Tobacco earned the country $819m in revenue in 2021. Farming cannabis for medical use in Zimbabwe was first legalised in 2019.

“Switzerland is the first gateway into Europe,” Maroveke said in an interview in Harare. 

Another 20 tonnes of industrial hemp are set to be exported to the European nation, she said. 

The post Zimbabwe Tobacco Board Tells 145 000 Tobacco Farmers: “A Quarter of Your Income Must Come from Hemp by 2025” appeared first on Cannabiz Africa.

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Amsterdam Trying To Halt Tourists From Coffee Shops



The world famous Dutch capital city Amsterdam is looking to ban tourists from being able to frequent its famous coffee shops. For decades cannabis enthusiasts have been able to light up in Amsterdam with their chilled culture and relaxed drug policies – however some local politicians are looking to end the fun.

The changes, presented by mayor Femke Halsema, would require that cannabis would only be made available for purchase from the cities 166 licensed coffee shops by residents only. This policy would align with many of the other cities across the Netherlands including Rotterdam and Maastricht. Conservatives feel many of the cities problems are caused by the current cannabis market including illicit drugs and crime. Residents have complained about loud noise, littering and raucous behavior from tourists.

A ban would mean the loss of thousands of jobs and revenue for the city and definitely be a big change for a city that made cannabis a big part of its identity and made it a huge tourist destination. As this is not the first time the policy has been under attack its very much a wait and see type thing to find out what happens. Stay tuned….

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