Malawi has long been wanting to tap into the cannabis market and it now has its eyes set on former boxing champion Mike Tyson to be the country’s cannabis brand ambassador.
According to a letter: “Malawi passed legislation to legalise cannabis on February 27, 2020 and on August 31, 2020, the Cannabis Regulation Act, 2022 came into force.
“This created opportunities for the legal cultivation of cannabis for both medicinal and industrial purposes, and [to offer] the country an opportunity to diversify its agricultural production and potentially [to generate] much-needed foreign exchange,” the Malawian minister of agriculture, Robin Lowe, said.
“In spite of all these perceived benefits, Malawi may not go it alone as the industry is complex, requiring collaboration. I would therefore like to appoint you, Mr Mike Tyson, as Malawi’s cannabis brand ambassador.”
Tyson, who is a former world heavyweight champion, has invested in a cannabis farm in the United States and is also a businessman. According to reports by the BBC, the United States Cannabis Association was facilitating the deal with Tyson.
The head of its Malawi branch, Wezi Ngalamila, told the BBC that the former boxer had accepted the invitation and the celebrity is to make his way to the country soon.
“Tyson will be working with us,” she said.
While Malawi legalised the growing and processing of cannabis for medicinal use last year, it has not legalised it for personal use. The country’s agricultural ministry is also encouraging farmers to grow hemp for industrial use.
Gracian Lungu, a spokesperson for the ministry of agriculture, told AFP that the Malawian government has hopes that Tyson will attract investors and potential buyers to the country. Malawian Gold, a strain of cannabis grown in the country, is world-renowned for its recreational use.
Tyson has previously said that smoking cannabis has helped to improve his mental health and helped him “turn his life around”.
Malawian civil society group the Centre for Public Accountability (CPA), has criticised the country’s government for approaching Tyson despite his previous crimes. The former boxer did jail time in 1992 after he was convicted of rape in the state of Indiana, and released in 1995.
“The CPA is failing to comprehend why Malawi would want to have a convicted rapist as its brand ambassador, more especially at this time, when efforts to curb violence against women are part of the government agenda,” the group’s acting director, Kondwani Munthali, said in a statement.
Tyson was freed on parole for good behaviour, according to Lungu, and had committed no additional offences.
Malawi’s cannabis industry is also struggling to grow, with reported stalling due to expensive licences and a lack of investors and buyers.