Monday March 30, 2020

Malawi Parliament Allows Cultivation of Cannabis for Medicinal Purposes

Malawi Parliament Okays Cultivation of Cannabis or Marijuana

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Cannabis
Legalization of the industrial cannabis in Malawi has excited many famers who abandoned tobacco due to poor prices. VOA

By Lameck Masina

In Malawi, parliament has passed a bill which allows cultivation of cannabis for industrial and medicinal purposes. Backers of the bill say cannabis will boost the economy, which is largely dependent on tobacco. Anti-drug campaigners and religious conservatives say the move will encourage recreational use of marijuana.

Former lawmaker Boniface Kadzamira first brought the cannabis bill to parliament in 2014 amid opposition from fellow parliamentarians. Now, Kadzamira says he feels vindicated.

“I am very happy that finally the bill has passed because when I was starting this issue people thought I was crazy,” he said.  “They called me names. The national assembly, in fact, the first day laughed at me; they booed at me. But I was determined because I had the facts on my fingertips.” Kadzamira says the facts included research showing that hemp — a non-drug product of cannabis — can be used to produce soap, lighting oil, medicines and other useful products.

Malawi is now one of five southern African countries  — along with Zimbabwe, Zambia, Lesotho and South Africa — that have legalized industrial hemp. South Africa went a step further in 2018 by decriminalizing recreational use of cannabis. Ben Kalua is an economics professor at Chancellor College of the University of Malawi. He says legalization will help the country diversify its agriculture-based economy.

“It’s economically viable because it has a very long value chain. It has so many by-products of industrial hemp including fiber for construction. There are all products that can be derived from that plant compared to tobacco,” he said. Malawi has long relied on tobacco, which accounts for about 13 percent of its gross domestic product and 60 percent of its foreign exchange earnings.

Cannabis
Various varieties of the industrial cannabis which was grown on trial basis at Chitedze Research Station in Lilongwe. VOA

Over the years, however, tobacco prices per kilogram have fallen, largely because of anti-tobacco campaigns and fewer people smoking. Tobacco farmers like Hartley Changamala say they feel they now have an alternative.

He says, “Some of us are growing tobacco because we don’t have an alternative crop to bring us income. But those who knew that tobacco farming has now become useless have stopped. So with legalization of the industrial cannabis, I feel I can benefit a lot as a farmer.” Anti-drug campaigners and religious conservatives continue to argue that legalizing cannabis will encourage recreational use of marijuana.

Nelson Zakeyu, an executive director for the NGO Drug Fight Malawi, says, “Why I am saying this is that there is very minimal difference in appearance between the two: Indian hemp [marijuana] and this industrial hemp. So that’s where the danger is, because many will be [taking] the Indian hemp as if they are taking the industrial hemp. So, we will end up having abnormal citizens in the country.”

Also Read- Xiaomi, Realme Cancel Product Launch Events in India Due To Coronavirus Concerns

Researchers say industrial hemp has a very low amount of the substance in marijuana which makes people high. Malawian President Peter Mutharika has until March 19 to sign the cannabis bill into law. The president has not indicated what he will do. (VOA)

Next Story

Novel Coronavirus Forces Global Hospitality Industry To Checkout Abruptly, Occupancy Gets Down

The reports are based on data from 68,000 properties and 9.1 million rooms around the world

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Coronavirus
In India, with huge losses and unemployment and bankruptcies looming ahead, the Federation of Associations of Indian Tourism & Hospitality (FAITH) has sought urgent intervention of the Centre to tackle the crisis arising out of the COVID-19 pandemic. Pixabay

New Coronavirus pandemic has forced the global hospitality industry to checkout abruptly, as occupancy has gone down up to 100 per cent in some of the most-affected countries, according to a new report.

According to leading hospitality data company STR, occupancy is down as much as 96 per cent in Italy to 68 per cent in China, 67 per cent down in the UK, 59 per cent in the US and 48 per cent in Singapore. The reports are based on data from 68,000 properties and 9.1 million rooms around the world.

“A figure of 30 per cent absolute occupancy in the US for the week ending March 21 is not a good sign,” reports phocuswire.com, quoting STR’s senior vice president of lodging insights, Jan Freitag.

“Seven of 10 rooms were empty around the country [United States]. That average is staggering on its own”. “What that further then means is that there are still a lot of people traveling… means there are still a lot of people who are not practicing social distancing,” Freitag noted.

In India, with huge losses and unemployment and bankruptcies looming ahead, the Federation of Associations of Indian Tourism & Hospitality (FAITH) has sought urgent intervention of the Centre to tackle the crisis arising out of the COVID-19 pandemic.

FAITH Chairman Nakul Anand said with declining revenues in almost all tourism businesses, there is a huge dearth of working capital that has hit the industry, according to a letter to the PM by the apex body of all national associations representing the entire travel, tourism and hospitality sector.

With the responsibility of paying staff salaries, servicing EMIs, advance taxes, provident fund, ESIC, GST, Excise and other state levies, bank guarantees and security deposits, the industry needs the support of the government, he said, urging Prime Minister Narendra Modi to grant a 12-month moratorium of paying their EMIs on loans and working capital from financial institutions, both banking and non-banking.

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According to STR report, based on data from 68,000 properties and 9.1 million rooms around the world, RevPAR (revenue per available room) has gone down considerably.

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New Coronavirus pandemic has forced the global hospitality industry to checkout abruptly, as occupancy has gone down up to 100 per cent in some of the most-affected countries, according to a new report. Pixabay

Last week, the decline accelerated, for example averaging 90 per cent across all major cities in Europe.”RevPAR decreases are at unprecedented levels — worse than those seen during 9/11 and the financial crisis,” said Freitag. Marriott International and Hilton have already started furloughing “tens of thousands” of employees — from general managers to housekeepers — in the US.

According to Hotel Trades Council that represents hotel and gaming workers in New York and northern New Jersey, more than half of the union’s 40,000 members have been laid off in these areas.

ALSO READ: Effects of Quarantine on Mental Health and Relationships

All 6,000 members of the union’s casino division have been laid off with the casinos across the state remaining closed over the weekend, according to the Council. (IANS)