Government sets strict rules for marijuana growing

Workers tend cannabis seedlings at a farm owned by Industrial Hemp Ltd in Kasese District. FILE PHOTO

Individuals and companies seeking to grow or export marijuana for medical purposes will be required to present minimum capital of $5m (Shs18.3b) and a bank guarantee of Shs4b.

Investors will also be required to present a tax clearance certificate from the Uganda Revenue Authority, lists of employees and their job descriptions, a valid trading licence, evidence of value addition to cannabis and audited accounts.

The marijuana farms/sites must not be located near schools, hospitals and residential areas and in case of any associates/business partners, the details must be disclosed to government, including site designs, a robust security system with access control systems and intrusion systems in place.

Cabinet is expected to convene this morning to discuss and approve the list of 15 guidelines for medical marijuana growing in the country before Parliament is briefed on the matter.

The Health minister, Dr Jane Ruth Aceng, is expected to present the new guidelines and a confidential list of more than 100 companies and individuals seeking government permission to grow and export cannabis for medical purposes.

The Narcotic Drugs and Psychotropic Substances Act, 2015, allows cultivation, production and exportation of medical marijuana and mandates the Health minister to issue written consent for medical marijuana. However, Dr Aceng has since April last year kept the companies guessing due to absence of guidelines for the new industry.

“On Monday [today], I will be presenting paperwork on cannabis to Cabinet for them to approve guidelines and consider the growth of cannabis. So my humble request is for you to wait for Cabinet to pronounce itself on this issue.” Dr Aceng told Daily Monitor last Thursday.
A senior official at the National Drugs Authority (NDA) told Daily Monitor at the weekend that the new guidelines were drafted by a joint team from Health and Internal Affairs ministries, and NDA to minimise the risk of diversion of medicinal cannabis.

Current practice
Growing of cannabis for treating severe medical conditions such as cancer, Parkinson’s disease, Alzheimer’s disease, arthritis and other neurological conditions is already happening in Uganda.

Industrial Hemp (U) Ltd is currently working with Pharma Limited, one of the biggest Israeli cannabis firms, in growing marijuana for medical purposes in Uganda. They have invested $360m (about Shs1.3 trillion) in Hima, Kasese. The company is expected to export medical marijuana from Uganda in March.

Increasing need for pain management therapies and growing disease burden of chronic pain is also expected to boost demand. Scientific study of the chemicals in marijuana called cannabinoids has led to approved medications that contain cannabinoid chemicals in pill form. Those backing marijuana also say the plant contains chemicals that may help treat a range of illnesses, particularly for people with intractable nausea and vomiting, chronic pain, spasticity and epilepsy.

More than 100 companies- foreign and local - have positioned themselves to grow and export marijuana in Uganda. The government has formed a committee chaired by the Internal Affairs minister, Gen Jeje Odongo, to screen the applicants with a view to kicking out “speculators” and recommending “serious companies and individuals” for medical marijuana licences.

Other committee members include the Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of Internal Affairs, Dr Benon Mutambi, and the police commissioner-in-charge of narcotics, Mr Tinka Zerugaba. The Health ministry is also represented on the committee. The Narcotic Drugs and Psychotropic Substances Act, 2015, mandates the ministers to issue letters of consent.

Marijuana companies
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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