MP Dimba emphasises that cultivation of chamba is for medicinal or commercial industrial purposes only

* The previous law did not allow the cultivation of Canabis with tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) potency of above 1%

* Our local chamba has higher potency of above 1% and essentially it is not for recreational purposes (smoking) in Malawi

By Duncan Mlanjira

The Cannabis Regulation Bill, once assented to by President Lazarus Chakwera, is for medicinal or industrial (commercial) purposes — emphasises mover of the private member Bill in Parliament, Peter Dimba, legislator for Lilongwe South.


Soon after the announcement that the Bill has been passed in Parliament last Thursday, some sections of the public thought this will legalize the detrimental chamba smoking despite that its was explained that it only allows for the controlled cultivation of locally produced Cannabis Sativa — with the aim of harnessing its advantages both domestically and internationally.

Maravi Express contacted MP Dimba for clarification after one of our sources raised some questions, asking if the amendment of the 2020 Act is for medicinal and industrial cannabis or if it is a fresh one looking at the local herb.

He also observed that the medicinal and recreational market requires a specific variety of crop and specific cultivation procedures and processes.

He also asked which countries are being targeted that are allowed legally to import this variety: “Who are the suppliers today and are they not meeting the current demand? Do we really have a tangible market or it is just excitement?

“Assuming the legal addressable market for recreational segment exists then what will be our competitive advantage. Has any reputable research agency done any blind taste test to prove better potency than others (statistically significant)?

“What about the adverse consequences of public health to Malawians?“ he asked and when shared with Dimba, he clarified that “the previous law did not allow the cultivation of Canabis with tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) potency of above 1%.

“Our local chamba has higher potency of above 1% and essentially it is not for recreational purposes (smoking) in Malawi.

“In this amendment, we have allowed for the licensed cultivation of Canabis with THC of above 1% which means our local chamba has been accepted.

“However, we are saying that if you want to cultivate, process, ship (move it from A to B), be in possession of it, use it, you must have a license or a permit.

MP Peter Dimba

“It is for medicinal or industrial (commercial) purposes — we will be selling this chamba on international market. So we are essentially venturing into this business as a country for export market.

“If it could be used within our country, the law would have to be enforced (not meant for smoking) but if the chamba is exported, our law cannot be applicable beyond our borders — which means we really have no control over how the chamba we have exported would be used.

“In Malawi, it would still be illegal to use it for recreational purposes,” he said — quoting Section 24 (1) of the Principal Canabis Act that says in (1) ‘any other written law, shall not research on, cultivate, propagate, supply, possess, produce, process, store, export, import, use or distribute cannabis and its products’.

And Section 24 (2) that says ‘A person who engages in any act in contravention of subsection (1) commits an offence’.

When put across to him the responses from MP Dimba, our source still asked: “What’s the size of the market are we aiming at — in US? Who supplies them now?

“Does Malawi have space to play in the export space? I doubt there is a sustainable and tangible local market. This is what I call smoke mirrors — you think there is too much in the disco room when in reality you are also seeing the same smoke in the mirrors and get dillusioned of the play up effect”.

After the Bill was passed on Thursday, MP Dimba told the media that the whole essence is to legalise the controlled, regulated cultivation of the local cannabis.

The august House

“In 2018, we introduced the cultivation of cannabis, but somehow, we discriminated against it — yet it’s highly sought after on the global market because of its properties,” he is quoted as saying by Malawi News Agency (MANA).

Dimba further noted that extensive consultations had taken place over the past four years and anticipates presidential assent for the Bill while Leader of the House, Richard Chimwendo Banda clarified that the Bill does not legalise the transportation or usage of cannabis for recreational purposes and that only licensed individuals can grow it.

“What Malawians should understand is that chamba growing shall continue to be illegal — however, this Bill allows growth with strict regulations in place to prevent abuse and protect the youth,” he emphasised.

Leader of the House, Richard Chimwendo Banda

Spokesperson for United Democratic Front (UDF), Nedson Poya raised concerns about the high costs associated with licensing — emphasising the need for equitable benefits for local farmers but stressed that the Bill aims to support medicinal use rather than promote youth smoking.

During the debate, questions arose regarding the intended use of cannabis, prompting clarification from some of the legislators — with MPs from constituencies such as Rumphi Central McDowel Chidumba Mkandawire and Lilongwe Kumachenga Marko Chingonga Banda also advocating for proper regulation to support local farmers and expand the economic potential of cannabis beyond smoking.

In contrast, Dedza South MP, Ismael Ndaila Onani highlighted the positive uses of cannabis in various industries while urging a balanced approach focusing on its economic benefits.

However, concerns were also raised regarding its potential impact on mental health, with calls for strict regulations similar to those governing firearms.

Despite these deliberations, the Bill ultimately received Parliamentary approval after the members acknowledged the risks associated with cannabis usage but emphasised its economic potential and the importance of effective regulation to mitigate adverse effects.

The passage of the Cannabis Regulation Bill signifies a significant step towards unlocking the economic benefits of cannabis cultivation in Malawi while addressing concerns surrounding its usage and societal impacts.

As the country moves forward with implementation, attention will remain on striking a balance between economic opportunity and public health considerations.