Uganda: Cannabis Investors' Right to Run Out of Patience, Says Government

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Marijuana leaves.

Investors waiting for clearance to venture into large scale planting of cannabis, also known as marijuana are right to get angry with the government for taking long to institute legal framework to regulate the intoxicating but high-value medicinal crop, the State Minister for Agriculture has said.

Mr Christopher Kibanzanga says several investors and medical research institutions have expressed frustration over delays to grant them licences to grow marijuana for medical purposes.

The products harnessed from cannabis, according to the minister are of high value and marketable. He believes that if the fortunes of the high value crop are properly tapped it can easily transform the fortunes of a country in general.

At the same time, he warned that it has the potential to turn a country into a chaotic State as evidenced in some South American and South-Central Asia countries that are grappling with the drug problem.

Marijuana is a psychoactive drug from the Cannabis plant used for medical or recreational purposes. In Uganda, there are restrictions against planting or using the cannabis substance although the Narcotic Drugs and Psychotropic Substances Act, 2015 allows cultivation, production and exportation of medical marijuana and obligates the minister to issue written consent to that effect only--medical marijuana.

"We are aware that Investors are becoming impatient and they have a right to do so," Mr Kibanzanga told Daily Monitor in an interview on the sidelines of ASERECA Council of Patron Ministers Summit that ended over the weekend with a study trip to Nakasongola District, Central Uganda.

"Some of them are investors from Israel, United States of America, Canada and others are from research institutions, all writing to me over the matter--growing of marijuana. They need the situation sorted out before they can legally and meaningfully engage in the business," he said.

He continued: "But this involves a process which comes with complexities. We need to benchmark with other countries and see how they have done it. So it's not going to be easy. This process could take us 1-2 years.

"We need to train our police officers on how to deal with this crop and related products in addition to improving our capacities in several other areas so I call upon our friends (investors) not to put a lot of pressure on us because we don't want to turn this country into Afghanistan, Colombia or Cambodia where there are challenges to regulate this kind of situation."

It emerged in the interview that investors are looking to countries in East and Central Africa to grow cannabis because according to Mr Kabanzanga it can be grown easily and cheaply in this part of the world.

The ban

Government, although in uncoordinated manner, has driven its point home. Health Minister, Dr Jane Aceng and State Minister for Investment Ms Evelyn Anite Kajik have all put to a stop the activities of the investors involved in the business until the legal framework to allow operations are in place.

And to lift the ban according to Mr Kibanzanga, it will take coordination of the three ministry--health, internal affairs and agriculture.

He said: It's not the ministry of agriculture to lift the ban. We shall only lift the ban with our colleagues at internal Affairs and ministry of Health. Discussions are ongoing but it will take time because we are mindful of the cost that this kind of product can have on our country."

The law

Daily Monitor understands that Cabinet paper regarding the matter has been submitted and a decision was taken that law must be amended to allow industry players to go about their investments. Ministry of agriculture is the leading sector in this process. And when it comes to processing of the crop into a drug then National Drug Authority (NDA) and the ministry of health will take over. And implementation of the regulations and laws thereafter will be enforced by the ministry of Internal Affairs.

Marijuana companies

Licensed

1. Industrial Hemp (U) Ltd

2. Together Pharma Ltd

Applied pending licence

3. Natgro Phama (U) Ltd

4. Medraw (U) SMC Ltd

5. Urban Properties (U) Ltd

6. Prime Ranchers

7. Silver Seeds (U) Ltd

8. Dave and Dave Group

9. Seven Blades

10. Cannops Africa

11. Quest Worths International Group

12. Premier Hemp

13.Sativa Agro-tech Ltd

14. Zeus Agro Ltd

15. Owesia U Ltd

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