*The government of Malawi wants former heavyweight champion boxer Mike Tyson as the country’s official cannabis ambassador.
Malawi’s agriculture minister Lobin Low has invited Tyson to become the face of the country’s growing cannabis industry in an effort to attract investors and tourism, according to CNN. The invite has received push back from Malawi’s Centre for Public Accountability (CPA), which claims the government is ignoring Tyson’s criminal history, specifically his 1992 rape conviction, for which he served six years in prison.
“Yes he paid his debt three years he was in jail, but we are saying to be the face of a nation is something beyond reformatory,” said Kondwani Munthali, acting director of the CPA. “We would want a less controversial character than Tyson.”
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Gracian Lungu, a spokesperson for Malawi’s Ministry of Agriculture, dismissed the criticism, telling CNN: “Malawi as a nation believes that Mr. Tyson is a right and reformed person as he was released on parole.”
Lungu added: “The moral appeal by some quarters, to continue holding Mr. Tyson to a wall of moral incapacity doesn’t hold water.”
“It’s about business, (and) economic business of cannabis,” Malawi’s Minister of Gender, Patricia Kaliati, told CNN. “We look for the prominent people, the decision makers who can say a thing which can be recognized internationally.”
Last month, Tyson launched the U.S.-based cannabis brand “Tyson 2.0”.
“Cannabis has changed me for the good both mentally and physically, and I want to share that gift with others who are also seeking relief,” Tyson said. “My vision for Tyson 2.0 is to make high-quality cannabis products available to consumers at various price points.”
As reported by Business Insider, in addition to selling Tyson cannabis products through its dispensary network, Columbia Care will also sell them wholesale to other retailers.
Jesse Channon, Columbia Care’s chief growth officer, said he is grateful to partner with Tyson because “celebrity sponsorship is one of the most effective ways to build immediate product and brand recognition.”
Channon said, “It is an honor to be a part of one of the largest cultivation and distribution partnerships in the industry, and we are looking forward to working with the Tyson 2.0 team to bring these products, and the passion behind them, to markets across the country.”
Columbia Care is the primary cultivation and manufacturing partner in U.S. markets where Tyson 2.0 operates, per the report.