Malawi’s newly created Cannabis Regulatory Authority (CRA) has received more than 100 applications from companies wanting to start cultivating and processing cannabis under licence, its chairman Boniface Kadzamira, said last week. He also confirmed that the south-eastern African country was now ready to start commercial production and processing of marijuana and to join the growing number of countries around the world which are either legalising or relaxing their cannabis laws. The neighbouring states of Zambia and Zimbabwe are two of them, as is Lesotho further to the south.
Predominantly agricultural and landlocked, Malawi ranks as one of the world’s least developed countries. It is also one of its poorest, and its newly elected President Lazarus Chakwera will be hoping that growing global recognition – or rather rediscovery – of cannabis’s medicinal properties will allow the country to harness this natural resource to pull its people out of property. (The law allowing for its growth and production for non-recreational use was actually drafted and ratified under the regime of his predecessor Peter Mutharika).
The overall legal marijuana market is certainly one of the world’s fastest growing. According to Grand View Research, its value is expected to reach $73.6 billion by 2027 at a CAGR of 18.1%. Up to the end of last year, revenue from the medical segment accounted for 71% of that total owing to its growing use as a pharmaceutical product for treating severe medical and neurological conditions such as cancer, arthritis, Parkinson’s disease and Alzheimer’s.
An increase in the need for pain management therapies, along with the swelling ranks of older people suffering from chronic pain, is expected to boost medicinal demand even further. The popularity of over-the-counter ‘recreational’ cannabis-infused products is also expected to grow at an annual pace of 22%. Although Malawi stopped short of legalising the recreational use of cannabis, the chamba that grows in its hills is currently regarded as the Holy Grail of marijuana by many weed aficionados. Revered by those in the know as Malawi Gold, it is giving the country’s tourist industry a welcome little high of its own.