Homeless in Vancouver: Malawi legalizes medical cannabis use—for here, there, and anywhere but Malawi

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      On Thursday (February 27) Malawi followed a growing trend in Africa and legalized the cultivation of cannabis for the production of medicines and hemp fibres.

      However, the small southeast African nation—known for its home-grown Malawi Gold strain of cannabis—has not legalized either the medical, or (admittedly widespread) recreational use of cannabis by its own 18.1 million citizens.

      The Cannabis Regulation Bill, tabled in Malawi’s parliament by Agriculture Minister Kondwani Nankhumwa, is not actually meant for home consumption.

      It is squarely aimed at cashing in on the huge export market created by the legalization of medical and recreational use of cannabis in wealthier nations, such as Canada.

      Like several of its neighbours, Malawi is hoping that cannabis can be its new chief foreign currency earner (like tobacco used to be) and wipe out the country’s swelling debt, which was about $5.5 billion in 2018, or 62 percent of the country’s gross domestic product (GDP).

      Zambia, which shares a border with Malawi, likewise legalized the production and export of cannabis in December 4, 2019, “for economic and medicinal purposes”.

      Again, it was not clear from the Zambian government’s statement, Reuters, reported, “if the use of cannabis for medicinal purposes in Zambia had been legalized”.

      According to Reuters, the export of cannabis has been touted in Zambia for years, as a way to bring in tens of billions of dollars of new revenue to a country saddled with billions of dollars of foreign debt.

      The first country in Africa to legalize the cultivation of cannabis for the production of export products was little Lesotho, though South Africa has to be given its due.

      On September 18, 2018, the South Africa Constitutional Court straight up decriminalized the use and cultivation of cannabis in a private space. However, this bold ruling has not changed the fact that buying and selling cannabis continues to be illegal in South Africa, making things confusing there, weedwise.


      Canadian connection to cannabis legalization in Africa

      Meanwhile, between late 2017 and early 2018, the health ministry of Lesotho (a tiny nation actually embedded in South Africa) issued licences to six companies to cultivate cannabis in Lesotho for scientific and medicinal purposes.

      The first company granted a licence—Verve Dynamics—was originally 100 percent South African. However, Canada’s Aphria acquired a 30 percent interest in Verve in May 2018.

      Of the six companies granted Lesotho grow-ops, one was U.K.-owned to begin with and another has since been taken over by a U.S. firm. The remaining three are now owned, whole, or in part, by Canadian companies.

      In March of 2018, the first-ever shipment of medical cannabis from Africa to Canada arrived right here in Vancouver, British Columbia. It was reportedly 850 grams-worth and it came from the Lesotho grow-op of the U.K.-owned Medi Kingdom.