So, there is pretty much of a scramble for cannabis in Uganda. And the government feels it is being overwhelmed by the unending demands from growers of marijuana to have the permission to produced the plant. A rush for cannabis in Uganda.
The government in Uganda says that it is currently stuck with 20 bids from from companies and individuals competing to get government clearance to grown and export medical marijuana. The Health minister, Dr Jane Ruth Aceng confirmed this.
The reason why there are so many bids and why the government is feeling a tad overwhelmed is that the government has been reluctant for a very long time to put in place regulations that make it easy for the production of marijuana for medical purposes. There are lots of inquiries about the application process and the follow-ups both from the locals and even from the foreigners.
The State Minister for Health, Ms. Sarah Opendi said, "Marijuana growing without proper control measures can be dangerous to our youthful population... . already it is the second highest cause for the Butabika [mental rehabilitation] hospital admissions majority of whom are youth. We can't just accept growing [of marijuana]."
"Why are we having this huge influx of people to our country wanting to grow it here and not any other East African country? We already have laws prohibiting its production without clearance from the ministry, but this law is already being abused. People are growing marijuana under whose authority?," she further said.
Lots of companies are seeking to tap into the $5 billion industry. The way policy is structured when it comes to giving permission to do cannabis production is a bit frustrating. In place is a law that allows cultivation, production and exportation of medical marijuana and mandates the minister to issue written consent for medical marijuana. That law is called the Narcotic Drugs and Psychotropic Substances Act 2015. The only problem is that the applications will have to wait for the final decision of Cabinet.
Proponents of the legalisation of marijuana production pinpoint the health benefits that come with marijuana.
"It's true marijuana has medicinal properties but the medical properties are still under research... it has been proven it can be used in reducing pain in cancer patients but even then research is still ongoing... there is also research in areas of mental illnesses such as schizophrenia in cases of epilepsy; it's still undergoing research," Dr. Aceng said.
So far, the government has issued a license to Industrial Hemp (U) Ltd to grow and export medical marijuana. The company is currently working together with Pharma Limited, one of the biggest Israeli cannabis firm on the Tel Aviv Stock Exchange.
The final decision on this matter rests with Cabinet. And Cabinet is reportedly taking a stance that is less favourable to the growers of cannabis.
The scramble for cannabis in Uganda presents an opportunity for them to properly regulate their industry so that they realize the full benefits of such a lucrative trade.
Header image credit - Haaretz