By Andrew Kaponya and Noel Zacharia
Hitting the nail on the head is our school of thought. This article is a humble request to African Governments to decriminalize cannabis. Yes, you have heard us right, legalise cannabis! This article is also an earnest call to activists and religious leaders, media practitioners, legal experts, academics, politicians, and all Africans and people of good will to critically rethink about cannabis.
This article should definitely be the beginning of a new chapter into reconsidering the status of this plant that many have fear of the unknown to even discuss it.
Activists would rather initiate a debate on issues that will not even transform the living standards of poverty stricken masses. Let alone cannabis which is actually a panacea to the economic challenges that impoverished countries like Malawi are confronted with is neglected.
In the name of championing the welfare of the masses, activists are able to mobilise millions of dollars to advocate for issues that will just add stress to the hungry Africans without even solving their pressing daily needs for food and improved living standards. This article is therefore a loud speaker to the voiceless cannabis that continues to suffer negative publicity and prejudice from all corners of society.
We are talking about cannabis here. Be assured that you are getting us right, we know it’s becoming hard to comprehend because many avoid discussing it in public. Yes true we are talking about this cannabis that long time ago Reggae artist Peter Tosh advocated for its legalization in his song “Legalise Marijuana”.
We are pretty sure that you are already asking “why cannabis? For smoking? Are you Rastas? Do you want to go mad? Do you want to be useless in society?” in fact this is the most unfortunate misrepresentation that this plant has encountered in our society.
You may not be wrong as you question exactly what everyone else would put it, but you are wrong scientifically. Yes you heard us right, you are wrong! We are making our presence on this piece of paper having scientific evidence of the economic and medicinal values that cannabis possesses.
Fifty years have gone since Malawi got independence from its British colonial masters. We adopted an agro-based economy that was planned by our colonial commissioner Sir Harry Johnstone in such a way that tobacco, tea and sugar became our main exports.
Today, not so much impressive to write about in as far as economic achievement of Malawi are concerned in this regard. Mind you, we have isolated Malawi as a sample representing many African countries that are found in similar situation. Malawi is agro-based economy dominated by tobacco exports. Many people are employed in this sector and it is a source of foreign currency. What are the growth prospects of this sector? Very quickly lets not waste time debating this obvious point. Our leaders are busy looking for opportunities to diversify the economy, but unfortunately their sleepless nights in summits and conferences have taken us 50 years with no solution to diversify the economies and make the country economically self-sufficient.
We have a solution, wake up and make a conference and discuss legalization of cannabis and without delays embark on large scale cultivation of cannabis. Given it five years from now, we shall sing redemption song for our economy.
In case you are wondering where to start from, let us simplify the task for this proposed summit to legalise cannabis by offering definition and unveiling the economic and medicinal value of this plant.
We don’t want our beloved leaders to scratch their heads thinking about this when they spent millions of money to put us in public university just to become of value to nation. What shall we give back to the country if we don’t do this honourable task of providing scientifically proven facts about a plant called cannabis?
Cannabis is a generic name for a plant whose varieties are industrial hemp and marijuana. What makes these two varieties different is that industrial hemp has no tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) while marijuana has THC. THC is a substance that makes a smoker high. Industrial hemp is used in industry as raw material whereas marijuana is the one from which we get medicinal properties.
Cannabis has enormous industrial, medicinal and nutritional values hence its legalization will have a significant impact on the economic development of impoverished countries and health wise too cannabis being a medicine and rich source of protein-essential amino acids.
For years, environmental scientists have confirmed that it is the strongest natural fibre. Cannabis gives you better fabric than cotton, it gives you better paper than wood. What is more pressing for poor Africa is the fact that cannabis doesn’t need fertilizers, pesticides, and herbicides to grow. We are talking to you African countries that spend billions of your lean pockets to purchase fertilizers just to grow tobacco, cotton, and maize.
If cannabis is legalized today, it would mean sharp decline of the demand for the following; fibre from cotton, paper from wood, pain killers and expensive drugs in pharmacies, pesticides, herbicides, fertilizers, alcohol, and tobacco. This reminds us of the impending ban on tobacco. Is Africa wondering what will become of them after the ban? To our surprise, our dear leaders continue to encourage their people to grow more of a plant that is just about to be banned and of course that has just continued to put the masses into never ending economic slavery.
Isn’t cannabis good news for nations that want to be independent for goodness sake? If this sounds bad news to anyone, then we would be very quick to conclude that evil spirits have taken control of this man as he/she wines and dines in the presence of the poor. Cannabis is the cheapest and most effective medicine for chronic illnesses. Without fear of contradiction, the banning of cannabis only works to serve vested business interests of huge multinational corporations with assorted patents at the expense of real improved living standards of masses.
Something more interesting to note as we struggle to accept these scientifically proven facts, as the world continues to wear sad faces on the environmental degradation, and spend billions of money in workshops that reap almost nothing other than allowances for the elite few, cannabis is one plant that is environmental friendly since it doesn’t require fertilizers, herbicides and pesticides. These chemicals are hazardous to the environment, therefore, cannabis will serve our earth.
Are you wondering what kind of products can come out of cannabis? The list is very long, just ask google to help of the long list. For the sake of you who want immediate answers, we hope some of you have come across cannabis oil known as McGill which is an ideal solution for health, cancer, skin and other ailments.
Cannabis ice coffee drink, cannabis chocolate, cannabis potato chips are other products out of cannabis. By the way, cannabis can be consumed as a vegetable, the same way we consume lettuce and other vegetable. Cannabis is a raw material for building materials, ropes, paper, parts of cars and planes.
Some of you might have gotten reports that a Canadian Derek Kesek is set about making the first airplane made almost entirely of cannabis. Yes you got us right, from cannabis, the plant that you have violently refused.
There is also growing evidence that cannabis effectively cures Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) which is a form of mental illness. Cannabis is an effective treatment for some types of cancer, so as we see the poor dying in hundreds because they cannot afford expensive cancer treatments, we continue to deny them life while we can treat them using cost effective measure in cannabis.
Dear our leaders, it is our hope that we have provided straightforward information where you can start from. We know at your summit you shall have the task of defending cannabis against those that will insist that cannabis is evil as it makes our people get addicted, become useless, or worst of all go mad. Don’t worry about that as we in this article give you a response in advance.
It is true that some people smoke cannabis variety called Marijuana which has high levels of THC. The fact of the matter is that if your purpose is to get high, then it is absolutely futile endeavor for you to smoke industrial hemp as it has no or negligible levels of THC.
As far as smoking marijuana is concerned, its abuse can indeed be hazardous to health of a person. The underlined word here should be abuse. We must be reminded that human beings by nature tend to abuse many things including driving whose end result can be fatal. Therefore, it is not going to be a strange phenomena unique to cannabis alone. People abuse tobacco, alcohol, sex, religion which are legalized just to mention a few.
We have enemies to fight against other than wasting our hard won resources to fight innocent cannabis. By the way, it is scientifically proven that alcohol is 114 times more deadly to one’s health than cannabis and yet it enjoys shelf space in our high street stores.
Let us worry about crime that is taking lives and property of people. For your own information we have people who have been smoking Marijuana for years and years yet they don’t get mad, and they also happen to be the most productive people in societies. We hope you will not push us to mention them by names here.
Our beloved leaders, our piece is a humble request to consider the benefits that can be accrued from large scale farming of cannabis for industrial and medicinal purposes. The abuse surely can be well taken care of through proper regulation of the industry.
Let us start from where one of the great sons of Malawi, Honourable Joe Manduwa (then a member of Malawi parliament and deputy minister of Agriculture in the year 2000) and on 18th May 2015 (exactly 15 years later) Hon. Boniface Kadzamira who urged Malawi Government in the National Assembly to legalise cannabis for industrial uses.
Surely the embarrassing response which our honourable MPs got showed lack of critical thinking on issues that need attention and lengthy debate for the good of the poor people. One renowned medical doctor Dr. Hetherwick Ntaba endorsed cannabis as medically fine in a the Nation newspaper article of 4th April 2000.
Let us take cannabis for its economic and medicinal benefits. Cannabis, unlike tobacco farming, provides huge economic opportunities to African countries and can turn around the economies and become economically independent. Isn’t this that we have always strived for all along?
Look, Jamaica has just legalized cannabis few months ago, and Canada legalized cannabis for medical purposes in 2009 but then the climatic conditions of Canada do not allow it to produce enough for its domestic use.
As such, Canada has always been confronted with shortage of supply for cannabis and it has been looking for countries with conducive climate to produce good quality cannabis for it domestic use. Can’t Africa take advantage of such opportunities?
Instead of exploring how to utilize such available opportunities, we are busy enforcing archaic which was initially bulldozed by US politicians for their selfish reasons. Certainly, we can’t afford to continue with the current colonial and counter productive laws whereby our police raid the fields, uproot and burn cannabis which other countries like Canada are set to import in return for the forex that impoverished countries like Malawi badly need.
While some are busy advocating debates on matters that cannot in any way improve the economy of Africa, we advise our leaders to commit time and energy to debating the decriminalization of cannabis. Surely, cannabis is one economic savior that Africa needs to explore.
Andrew Kaponya a Marketing Consultant and Trainer & Noel Zacharia a 3rd year student at the University of Malawi’s Chancellor College studying for a Bachelor’s of Arts (BA) degree in Media for Development.
RADIO RECORDINGS OF PALIANI CHINGUWO AND ANDREW KAPONYA WITH MC CHIJOTA