Pubdate: Tue, 04 Apr 2000
Source: Panafrican News Agency
Copyright: 2000 Africa News Service
Author: Raphael Tenthani


LILONGWE, Malawi (PANA) - Malawi's deputy agriculture minister, Joe
Manduwa, has taken his one-man campaign to legalise the growing of
marijuana to parliament, saying the country stood to gain with such a

Manduwa, who started the campaign in 1999 before his appointment, said
the issue should be taken seriously now that tobacco, Malawi's chief
foreign exchange earner, is facing an uncertain future with a growing
anti-smoking lobby.

"Indian hemp (marijuana) has other important uses that can earn this
country a lot of foreign exchange as it happens in other countries
that have already taken the strides in this direction," he told
bemused colleagues.

He said the drug is now a much sought-after commodity on the world
market. For instance, more than 200 companies around the world are
scouting for suppliers of marijuana whose fibres are used to make a
wide-range of items like textiles, ropes, paper and cosmetics.

The deputy minister observed that while many crops need a lot of
chemicals to treat, the drug grows with very little care and requires
no insecticides.

He said with many tobacco growers registering losses year in and out
because of high costs of inputs, marijuana is an irresistible

But while some lawmakers said they needed more time to think over the
matter before commenting, opposition Malawi Congress Party treasurer
general Heatherwick Ntaba said the idea was worth considering.

"There are so many things that are produced from Indian Hemp," he
said, adding that marijuana has also been proved to contain some
useful medical traits.

He added that taking Indian hemp is medically all right, save for the
behavioural problem which he noted can be controlled if proper
mechanisms are put in place.

But police say legalising the cultivation of Indian hemp would be a
nightmare for the force since it would be difficult to draw a line
between those who abused it or those who needed it for medical reasons.

Police spokesman Oliver Soko said Malawi was not well-equipped to
handle a sudden surge in production of the drug.

He said a lot of people are mentally-disturbed because of abusing the

Manduwa was unfazed with the suggestion that legalising Indian hemp
will be a nightmare for mental hospitals, saying the end justifies the
means in legalising the drug.
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MAP posted-by: Allan Wilkinson