Mike Tyson Asked To Be Cannabis Ambassador Of Malawi | Receives Local Backlash Over Past Convictions

Mike Tyson is elevating his role in the cannabis industry with an appointment as the ambassador of cannabis to Malawi.

Malawi legalized growing and processing cannabis for medicinal purposes last year. However, it has not decriminalized the recreational use of the plant.

Cash Crop

To attract investment into their medicinal cannabis industry, still in its infancy, Malawi hopes the former world heavyweight champion will raise its profile by becoming the country’s official ambassador.

The minister of agriculture, Lobin Lowe, wrote Tyson an official letter with the country’s request.

“We want to market this industry outside Malawi and we thought that aligning ourselves to Mike Tyson could greatly help us with our industrial and medicinal cannabis considering that progress has been very slow in marketing our industry internationally,” said Gracian Lungu, spokesperson for the Office of Agriculture to Quartz.

The Next Frontier: Africa

Recreational cannabis strains like ‘Malawi Gold’ have put the southeastern African country on the map. However, Africa’s potential in the global cannabis business is enormous.

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According to the Prohibition Partners report, Africa’s legal cannabis industry could be worth as much as $7.1 billion by 2023.

Specifically, the legal and regulated cannabis industry in Zimbabwe, South Africa, Nigeria, Lesotho, Morocco, Malawi, Ghana, eSwatini, and Zambia are the countries primed for success.

Out With The Old

Tobacco remains Malawi’s primary export earner. It represents close to 13 percent of its GDP and 60 percent of its foreign exchange earnings. However, the global decline in tobacco use has impacted the country’s economy.

The Malawian government believes the cultivation of cannabis will turn the tide economically.

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Still, Tyson’s Malawian advocacy is not without its scrutiny.

Player Hater?

The Center for Public Accountability, a civil society organization in the country, feels that Tyson’s past conviction for rape makes him ineligible for the honor.

“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 organization said in a statement to Quartz.

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Similarly, a member of Parliament, Owen Chomanika, criticized the move due to Tyson’s previous crimes.

Building Bridges

Not all share the sentiment.

Happy Sakah, head of marketing, communication, and corporate strategy for The United States Cannabis Association (USCA), facilitates the deal with Tyson in Malawi.

“We believe that Malawian farmers are going to learn a lot from Mike Tyson because he has been in this business since 2016,” Sakah said to Quartz. He also dismissed the concerns over Tyson’s past, saying he served his time and is back in public life.

Malawi Leading The Way

After Malawi’s parliament passed the legalization of cannabis farming, the Cannabis Regulatory Authority-CRA oversees the new national venture. Seventy licenses have been issued to companies and cooperatives.

Licensing fees range from $100 to $1000 annually for cultivating, selling, storing, and distributing industrial or medicinal cannabis.

Tyson’s popular “Hotboxin” podcast has raised his profile in the cannabis business. He records the show from his cannabis ranch in Southern California.

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