14 May 2019

Uganda: Give Me Weed or Give Me Bobi - Happiness Is Coming to Uganda

opinion

People given to high-sounding jargon talk of something called the resource curse. Sometimes they get more specific and talk of the oil curse.

In their pessimism, they will soon talk of the weed curse. But for us optimists, we predict that Uganda will soon become one large happy family, thanks to impending formalisation of marijuana production.

The big boys outside Uganda have accepted what our grandparents knew ages ago, that the cannabis plant, which thrives fantastically in Ugandan conditions, has positive medicinal value.

Looking for the best source, they have identified Uganda where cannabis has hitherto been a menace because it grows quickly like weed or grass. So a dozen companies are to get licences to grow and export billions of dollars' worth of the weed every year.

We are told pharmaceutical giants in Israel and Canada can't wait to lay their hands on Ugandan weed. And this is official, by the way.

Forget the oil for which even this week some fellows are set to pay us some $160 million in tax for transferring their interests in some oil well, even before the black gold comes out of the ground.

Forget our other freely acquired resources which people pay to come and see, like the big game, over a thousand bird species found in one relatively small area, not to mention the mountain gorillas for which viewing permits are sold years in advance at over $500 each. This time, we are talking of a precious weed that every citizen can cultivate in their garden with minimal care.

Only one potential problem could vindicate the pessimists; if the big local boys try to exclude the masses from the action and say they are the only ones who will be allowed to sell weed. That could cause an uprising wilder than the one over bread price in Sudan.

For while we have always talked of the great agriculture potential of Uganda, we were not willing to break our backs to exploit it. But growing weed? Did I say growing? I meant sitting back as the foreign buyers come to up pick the weed, pay us and leave us to enjoy life.

And now try and fathom this. Economists have always blamed us for producing what we don't consume and consuming what we don't produce.

But now, the ultimate source of joy, for which others pay top dollar, will be just there to pick from our verandas. And this is not speculation; for some months now news of the health benefits of unsmoked weed has been spreading quietly and decent people are increasingly taking to consuming the free stuff, mostly drinking it like tea, for that feel-good effect.

Soon only a few of us ageing conservatives who were raised to frown at the mention of weed will be left behind by this happiness train.

I can't wait for the day, coming maybe next year, when there will be no more anger in Uganda, and nobody will follow Kizza Besigye and Bobi Wine to the street to be teargassed!

People will be too happy drinking the weed from their compound and making more money from Israeli and Canadian buyers to listen to Bobi and Besi.

And by the 2021 elections, who will care who becomes president or MP? Problems will only arise if somebody tries to exclude the majority from the weed windfall.

Joachim Buwembo is a retired journalist and a consultant based in Kampala.

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