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Malawi Turns to Cannabis as Tobacco Falters: Can Green Gold Fill Empty Coffers?

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Malawi, famed for its golden tobacco leaves, is facing a harsh reality. The once-lucrative crop is dwindling as global anti-smoking campaigns take hold. But in a bold move, the African nation is betting on a controversial alternative: cannabis.

The Malawian government recently legalized the cultivation, sale, and export of cannabis for medicinal and industrial purposes. This decision, though met with cautious optimism, is driven by a desperate need to diversify the economy. Agriculture Minister Kondwani Nankhumwa believes cannabis can be the “green gold” that replaces the fading glitter of tobacco.

Proponents argue that cannabis offers a high-value crop that can be cultivated by the same Malawian farmers already familiar with labour-intensive agriculture. Studies by Africa Insights suggest a potential windfall, with estimates ranging from $200 million in the initial stages to a whopping $700 million as the industry matures.

However, the path to prosperity is not paved with hemp. Critics warn of potential social repercussions, fearing a rise in recreational drug use alongside the legalised industry. Strict regulations and robust enforcement will be crucial to ensure cannabis becomes an economic boon, not a social burden.

Malawi’s gamble on cannabis is a story straight out of the Sunday Times playbook. Here, we have a nation at a crossroads, a controversial solution, and the promise of riches or ruin. Only time will tell if this bold move will spark economic growth or leave a bitter aftertaste.

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