No Formal Decision on Licensing Marijuana Growing, Says Prime Minister

Prime Minister, Dr Ruhakana Rugunda.

The Prime Minister, Dr Ruhakana Rugunda has confirmed that government is considering allowing investors to grow marijuana in the country.

This is after the Rukungiri district woman MP, Betty Muzanira questioned the Prime Minister on the reports in the media indicating that government plans to license companies to grow cannabis (marijuana) in the country yet this is illegal according to Ugandan laws.

“The media has reported that the government of Uganda licensed a farmer to grow Cannabis in the country. It is alleged that many floriculture gardens do the same business and that around 90 firms have applied to grow marijuana,” Muzanira said.

She tasked the Prime Minister to explain under which law this arrangement will be implemented.

The Narcotic Drugs and Psychotropic Substances Act 2015, states that anyone involved in the manufacture, production, sale or distribution of a narcotic drug or psychotropic substance commits an offence and is liable, on conviction, to a fine not exceeding Shs 2.4m or imprisonment not exceeding five years or both.

Rugunda in response informed parliament that no formal decision on the matter had been taken but various government organs were considering on the matter.

“No formal decision has been taken, nevertheless, the various organs of this country are considering the matter and the House will be informed,” Rugunda said.

In April this year, State Minister for Privatization and Investment, Evelyn Anite directed Uganda Investment Authority (UIA) to suspend a licence that had been issued to Israeli company, Together, to establish a cannabis (marijuana) farm in Uganda for medical purposes.

Last year, Globus Pharma (the biggest cannabis firm on the Tel Aviv Stock Exchange), a subsidiary of Together, announced it was setting up a medical marijuana farm in Uganda, amid protest in some quarters within the Ugandan government.

In an April 2018 announcement, the firm said it had a deal to set up 30 dunams of medical cannabis hothouses in Uganda, and that it would be growing cannabis there within four months – meaning late August. In early September, it announced that the cannabis seeds it had ordered from the Netherlands had arrived.

The purchase was conducted through a “local partner” that had the needed permits from the Uganda Agriculture Ministry, it said.

It later emerged that Globus Pharma was this year awarded a licence to grow cannabis in Busongola county, Hima north in Kasese district.

According to Emely Kugonza, the Board Chairman at UIA, due diligence was conducted on the foreign firm, led by National Drug Authority and that the Inspector General of Police as well as Ministries of; Health and Agriculture gave a no objection.

But in April, Minister Anite said that the licensing was done without her approval. She explained that government is yet to make a final decision on whether or not to approve this investment.

“We were faced by four investors who wanted to grow cannabis for medical purposes and set up factories. We discussed it in Cabinet and the Cabinet paper was deferred with instructions to the Minister of Health to assess the benefits and issues of regulation,” Anite said.

“We have put the licence on hold as we wait for the final position of government on whether we want to attract investors in the growing of cannabis, whether we have the legal regime and what are the benefits”.

Globus Pharma was quoted last year by Israeli news publication, Haaretz, as having said; “The operations in Uganda, with a team of 100, are advancing as planned. After the farm is completed there, the company plans to start growing medical cannabis as of next month, and expects, besides the farm being built in Israel, to start sales as of the first quarter of 2019”.

While the objective fronted by the Israeli firm is medical, the debate on the part of government is largely explained by the other uses of marijuana which are considered harmful to humans. In the laws of Uganda, growing of marijuana is illegal.

Police has on several occasions carried out raids and destroyed marijuana farms which they say are illegal.

Cannabis (marijuana) is a psychoactive drug from the Cannabis plant used for medical or recreational purposes. It can be used by smoking, vaporizing, within food, or as an extract.

It’s short-term side effects on the user may include a decrease in short-term memory, dry mouth, impaired motor skills, red eyes, and feelings of paranoia or anxiety.

Long-term side effects include addiction, decreased mental ability in those who started as teenagers, and behavioral problems in children whose mothers used cannabis during pregnancy.

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