The Malawi Police Service (MPS) has not conducted intensive op¬erations to uproot and destroy Indian Hemp gardens in three years and this has resulted in increased cases of trafficking.
The illicit drug, commonly known as chamba is grown twice a year and Police are aware of where it is mostly grown such as Khosolo in Mzimba and Hanyezi in Kasungu but have not taken action due to lack of resources.
Police have intensified checks at roadblocks and have managed to impound hundreds of kilogrammes of the illicit drug in its raw form.
These arrests have occurred between Dwangwa and Salima on the lakeshore road giving testimony to the fact that most of the Indian Hemp is grown in Mzimba and places along Dwangwa River.
The Eastern Region has registered a reduction in chamba seized by Police from 504kg in 2011 to 110kg between January and September, 2012.
According to statistics from the Drug Section of the MPS which falls under the Criminal Investigations Department (CID), Police managed to impound 218 tonnes and carried out small operations to uproot and destroy 5,162kgs of Indian Hemp.
Officer in Charge of the Drug Section at Area 30 Julius Munthali confirmed that Police are overwhelmed by the rising number of trafficking cases.
"We the Police are treating the symptoms by standing by the road and catching the trucks and traffickers transporting Indian Hemp. The last major operation was carried out in 2009 because we have not had adequate resources to do another one," Munthali said.
Of the 218,838kgs which was seized in 2011, 5,162 kgs was up¬rooted and destroyed through Police operations.
In the Central Region alone, 3.2 tonnes of Indian Hemp was seized and destroyed after cases were concluded.
Last year, about 4 metric tonnes was impounded by Nkhotakota Police alone and this figure is expected to rise this year.
But Police are disheartened by the lenient sentences meted out at the courts when the suspects are charged with the offense of trafficking Indian Hemp without a license as per regulation 4 (a) of Dangerous Drugs as read with Section 19 subsection 1 of Dangerous Drugs Act.
Munthali said if found guilty of trafficking more than 10kgs, the courts are expected to mete out custodial sentences but many culprits have gone away with a fine.
Two traffickers in Nkhotakota who were caught with 52 bags in May this year were fined K400,000 or 7 years imprisonment in default. They paid the fine.
While most of the Indian Hemp transported across the country does not end up being smoked in the country, there is a danger that it could increase incidences of smoking especially among youths in Malawi, anti-drug and alcohol advocacy NGO Drug Fight Malawi said.
Drug Fight Malawi executive director Nelson Zakeyu said smok¬ing chamba was on the increase among youths and increased incidences of trafficking meant there would be more on the market for the youths to access.
"We commend the Police for trying to solve the problem but uprooting chamba doesn't solve anything because it is grown in hidden places. The bigger problem we have in Malawi is smoking which is physically and mentally destroying our youths," Zakeyu said.
There are some youths who believe that smoking chamba makes them more intelligent and creative when in fact it depresses their mental capabilities.