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Rajiv: Marijuana Growing Will Boost Uganda’s Economy

City tycoon, Rajiv Ruparelia (pictured) has said Government should fast track the law that will allow Ugandans grow marijuana for medical purposes, arguing that it will boost the country’s economy.

In an interview with Sanyu FM over the weekend, Rajiv said he is waiting for the Cabinet to pass the law allowing Cannabis growing.

“We want to go into the medical cannabis industry…This is going to create millions of jobs to Ugandans,” Rajiv said, adding: “There are organizations that are fighting it (Cannabis law/growing) but it’s unnecessary because at the end of the day, it’s about making our country better for our people. I am a very stronger believer of this programme (Cannabis growing) and I have already put in my application (Premier Hemp)…it’s going be a game changer for Uganda because it will bring it foreign currency and Uganda has the best environments for cannabis growing.”

Media reports indicate that 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 license, 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 discuss and approve the list of 15 guidelines for medical marijuana growing in the country before Parliament is briefed on the matter.

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.

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 licenses.

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.

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