POT OF GOLD: Ministry Of Health Marijuana Growing Licencing marred with Bias & Preferential Treatment

By DailyNewsUG Correspondent,

In April 2020, a Kasese-based medical marijuana dealer- the Industrial Hemp (U) Ltd used Turkish Airlines in the middle of the night to spirit 250Kgs of Medicinal Marijuana to Tel Aviv Israel.

This incognito transaction triggered lots of questions from a multitude of Investors who have applied for licences from the Ministry of Health to enable them commence Marijuana Farming.

The Health minister, Dr. Jane Ruth Aceng, who has been leading the fight against coronavirus, is currently with more than 100 bids from companies and individuals seeking to secure government clearance to grow and export marijuana for medical purposes.

Africa is emerging as a player in the medical cannabis sphere at a spectacular rate and for good reason. It has been estimated that the legal cannabis industry could be worth more than USD 7.1 bn (€6.2 bn) by 2023 if legislation is implemented across the continent.

Top Investors in Uganda have applied to Ministry of Health to grow marijuana for medical purposes, but government hasn’t responded clearly while others are already exporting.

The Questions

How did Industrial Hemp (U) Ltd get the license to grow marijuana in Uganda?  Who owns this company? Why has government issued license to selected growers and not issued to others? Why has cabinet delayed to approve the long awaited guidelines to grow marijuana in Uganda? Why is Ministry of Health playing Hide and Seek?

Some local Investors have invested Billions of shillings in Medical Marijuana research. One of the investors who has applied to grow marijuana in Uganda said Uganda is ‘sleeping’ on a multibillion business that has potential to create jobs for many Ugandans and contribute ‘greatly’ to the country’s economic development.

“It is amazing that companies are exporting this commodity yet Health Ministry says that there are no companies that have licenses,” the investor, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said, adding: “They (Health Ministry) keep telling us that they are waiting for Cabinet to approve guidelines.”

Industrial Hemp (U) Ltd last year signed a delivery order with Israel’s ministry of health that requires Uganda to supply dry cannabis flowers at a gate price of $1,500 per kilo. This company is linked to former Bunyaruguru County MP Benjamin Cadet. Sources told #DailyNewsUG that the deal was secured through an Israeli marijuana company – Pharma Limited.

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Israeli’s health ministry contacted the company last year through one of the directors at Pharma Limited, an Israeli company working with Industrial Hemp (U) Ltd and has invested about $360m (Shs1.3 trillion) in Hima, Kasese.

Mr. Cadet, one of the directors at Industrial Hemp (U) Ltd, confirmed the order from Israel but declined to divulge the details.

After hours of consultations, he later sent a brief WhatsApp message in which he called the deal “a great leap forward” by Uganda and his Industrial Hemp to become the first country and company in the world to access the Israeli medical cannabis market.

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“With coronavirus negatively affecting economies around the world, our medical cannabis exports are going to generate foreign exchange for Uganda in these difficult times and the future to come,” Mr. Cadet said but declined to divulge other details of the deal.

The company is expected to export additional 600kgs later this month.

The cannabis shortage in Israel compelled authorities in Tel Aviv to approach weed dealers in Uganda to fill the gap. Under the new deal, Uganda is required to supply 2.5 tons of medical cannabis to Israel’s pharmaceutical industry.

The Israelis are looking for cannabidiol (CBD) and tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) – the two important natural drug manufacturing compounds found in plants of the cannabis genus.

Cannabinoids like CBD and TLC are used to help with other various conditions, such as seizures, inflammation, pain, psychosis or mental disorders, inflammatory bowel disease, nausea, depression, anxiety, insomnia and low appetite.

Government has drafted strict guidelines to weed out speculators as it seeks to tap into the $5b lucrative industry.

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Under the proposed revised guidelines for marijuana business, the more than 100 companies and individuals with pending applications will be asked to present evidence of marijuana buyers before getting licences.

The Narcotic Drugs and Psychotropic Substances Act 2015 allows cultivation, production and exportation of medical marijuana and mandates the minister to issue written consent for medical marijuana.

However, Dr. Aceng insists the applications will have to wait for the final decision of Cabinet yet her Office has issued selected individuals to commence growing and export of marijuana.

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