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Unanswered Questions As Uganda Exports 250kg Of Marijuana Worth Shs1.5bn To Israel

The Ugandan government has cleared shipment of 250 kilogrammes of marijuana to Tel Aviv after Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s government agreed to pay $375,000 (about Shs1.5b) for dry cannabis flowers, Marijuana.

A  Kasese-based medical marijuana dealer- the Industrial Hemp (U) Ltd, used Turkish Airlines on Monday night to deliver their first significant medical cannabis exports to Israel. The Turkish flight left the country at 11:30pm.

However, there are unanswered questions about this deal and marijuana business in Uganda. A number of companies have applied to Ministry of Health to grow marijuana for medical purposes, but government hasn’t responded positively. How did Industrial Hemp (U) Ltd get the license to grow marijuana in Uganda?  Who owns this company? Why has government/cabinet delayed to approve the long awaited guidelines to grow marijuana in Uganda?

An investor 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.”

Daily Monitor reports that 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 Daily Monitor at the weekend that the deal was secured through an Israeli marijuana company – Pharma Limited.

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.

“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 tonnes 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.

Industrial Hemp (U) Ltd, a private firm working with an Israel company, Together Pharma Ltd, was licensed in 2016 and they are currently growing and processing marijuana from its Kasese facility.

Before the Israel deal, they had exported medical cannabis products to South Africa and Lesotho.

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

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

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.

In offing

As a result of the increasing interest in the potential utility of cannabis for a variety of medical conditions, as well as research on the potential adverse health effects from use of cannabis, globally, countries including Uganda have picked interest in the use of marijuana for medical purposes.

Uganda is also in the process of exporting marijuana, Cannabinol (CBD) and Tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) with mixture of 2.7mg THC and 2.5mg CBD for Sativex drugs approved in USA, Europe and Canada. Oil Risin contain Dronabinol for making Marinol and syndros capsules and CBD enriched creams for various skin disorders.

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