There has been increasing legalisation and a growing legal market for Cannabis in recent years. However, there are two central gaps in the academic and policy literature on cannabis legalisation. First, within the literature on cannabis formalisation there has been a relative neglect of the role of fiscal policy, including the role of tax as a regulatory instrument within cannabis legalisation and the potential revenue impact of legalisation programmes. Second, there is an existing study gap on the experience of lower- and lower-middle-income countries which have been substantially less studied. This study attempts to fill the study gap by drawing on the context of Malawi, which legalised commercial cannabis farming in 2020 and passed the amendment of the cannabis bill in March 2024.

In light of the recent developments, the study mainly seeks to achieve three objectives. Firstly, to determine what factors shape the cannabis taxation policy designs in lower-income country contexts. Secondly, to evaluate and anticipate the consequences of different cannabis tax designs on cannabis industries. Thirdly, to understand what factors shape cannabis taxation policy designs in lower-income country contexts like Malawi.


Max Gallien

Max Gallien is a Research Fellow at the ICTD. His research specialises in the politics of informal and illegal economies, the political economy of the Middle East and North Africa and development politics. He completed his PhD at the London School of Economics. Max co-leads the informality and taxation programme with Vanessa, as well as the ICTD’s capacity building programme.

Giovanni Occhiali

Dr Giovanni Occhiali is a Development Economist based at the Institute of Development Studies, where he works on a number of projects related to Tax Administration and Compliance, Tax and Governance and co-leads ICTD’s capacity building programme together with Dr Max Gallien. His research focuses on Sub-Saharan Africa, and outside of the field of taxation his main interests are energy economics and industrial policies. He holds a PhD from the University of Birmingham and prior to joining ICTD, he was a Researcher at the Fondazione Eni Enrico Mattei and an Overseas Development Institute Fellow at the National Revenue Authority of Sierra Leone.

Michael Masiya

Michael is a Researcher for the project “The Role of Fiscal Policies in Cannabis Legalisation: Learning from Malawi’s Experience”. He is primarily responsible for conducting stakeholder workshops, and interviews in Malawi, and managing local research assistants. He has previously held roles as Research Specialist at the African Tax Administration Forum (ATAF) and Senior Economist at the Malawi Revenue Authority (MRA), where his contributions to tax policy reform and analysis have had significant impacts across Sub-Saharan Africa. Michael completed an MPA-International Development at Harvard University.