Malawi is to start the commercial production of cannabis for medical and industrial use, according to Reuters, which cited Lilongwe’s new Cannabis Regulatory Authority. The head of the regulatory authority, Boniface Kadzamira, said more than 100 applications have been received for licensing and they are currently under consideration for approval

Malawi’s parliament passed a bill in February to allow legal cultivation and processing of cannabis for medicine and hemp fibre used in the industry but the bill stops short of decriminalising recreational use.

Fees for licensing marijuana for medical and industrial use in Malawi will range from $100 to $10,000 a year. Licensing will cover the cultivation, selling, storage, distribution of either class of industrial and medicinal hemp, said the county’s agriculture ministry.

Malawi will also allow public hospitals to pay $100 as well as $200 for private hospitals as licence fees to dispense cannabis medicines.

“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,” Kadzamira said, according to Reuters.

Kadzamira added hemp has the potential to surpass earnings from tobacco, currently 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.

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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.

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