Malawi Has an Unusual Offer for Mike Tyson

The country wants him as its new cannabis ambassador, but his rape conviction hovers
By Jenn Gidman,  Newser Staff
Posted Nov 30, 2021 7:29 AM CST
This Nation Just Asked Mike Tyson to Be Its Pot Ambassador
In this Aug. 2, 2019, file photo, Mike Tyson attends a celebrity golf tournament in Dana Point, Calif.   (Photo by Willy Sanjuan/Invision/AP, File)

In "something we weren't expecting" news this week, Mike Tyson has been asked to be an ambassador. Specifically, the cannabis ambassador for the African nation of Malawi, which hopes that the former world heavyweight champ's brand will help bring investors to its nascent medicinal pot industry. "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," Gracian Lungu, a spokesperson for the country's Ministry of Agriculture, tells Quartz.

The country, known for its "Malawi gold" cannabis, just legalized the growing and processing of cannabis last year. Malawi's largest export has traditionally been tobacco, but with smoking on the decline, the nation has turned its eye toward cannabis, which could supplement its tobacco output. Tyson was reportedly sent the invite last week from Agriculture Minister Lobin Low, and a rep for the Malawi branch of the US Cannabis Association, which is said to be helping with the deal, claims that Tyson has accepted, reports the BBC. The 55-year-old has long made a cannabis push in the US, including with his own brands that he's trying to get going in conjunction with the USCA.

Not everyone is happy with the government's ask, including a member of Parliament and the Centre for Public Accountability, a research think tank that promotes "an open and accountable government" in Malawi. "The CPA is failing to comprehend why Malawi would want to have a convicted rapist as its brand ambassador," the group says in a statement to Quartz, referencing Tyson's conviction for raping Miss Black America contestant Desiree Washington in 1991. Tyson served three years in prison and was released in 1995.

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A marketing rep for the USCA brushes off such criticism, saying Tyson has served his time. Lungu agrees, telling CNN, "Malawi as a nation believes that Mr. Tyson is a right and reformed person." Patricia Kaliati, the country's minister of gender and children, agrees with that assessment, noting that Tyson is a known businessman in the industry and that it's not like he's "going to be working ... on issues to do with women and children." The head of the CPA is pushing back on that narrative, saying that "to be the face of a nation is something beyond reformatory. We would want [a] less controversial character than Tyson." There's been no word from Tyson himself yet. (Read more Mike Tyson stories.)

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