As Uganda’s government remains undecided on its position to license individuals and companies to grow and produce Cannabis also known as marijuana, Rwanda has passed a new order that legalises the medical use of the crop, as the country moves closer to mass production and export of the multi-billion-dollar cash crop.
By doing so, Rwanda became the latest African country to legalise the growth of marijuana for medical purposes, as it seeks to establish itself in the multibillion business and tap into the benefits of the crop such as creating jobs and increasing the country’s revenue.
“The government of Rwanda is considering the development of a medical cannabis industry in Rwanda, targeting medicinal and therapeutic products. With a focus on export markets and value-addition. The government seeks to participate in the economic opportunities that this growing sector offers,” the statement reads in part.
Unlike Uganda where local and foreign investors intending to participate in the commercial growing of medical marijuana or cannabis are frustrated over the red tape in opening up the business for agricultural licensing, in Rwanda, aspiring investors are only required to establish high-level security to their establishments such as double-layered fencing, ensuring patrol control in between the two layers of the fence, hiring a licensed private security service company to secure the facility 24 hours a day, security lighting, video surveillance cameras, watchtowers, an intrusion detection system, a communication control room, bright signage, among others.
The new Ministerial Order No 003/MoH/2021 of 25/06/2021 Relating to the Cannabis and Cannabis Products stipulates that “any investor or person who is committed to performing any activity of cultivation, processing, importation, export, and use of Cannabis and Cannabis products, for medical or research purposes” is eligible to do so.
Not adhering to the guidelines will result in an administrative fine of not less than Rwf1 million and not more than Rwf50 million (Approximately $1015-$50,787). If the offense is repeated, the fine payable is doubled.
Article 18 of the order states that “The competent authority suspends a licence if the license holder does not comply with provisions of the Order and those of relevant laws or regulations.”
According to Rwanda Development Board (RDB), the Government of Rwanda expects the sector to generate significant export revenues and employment opportunities in high-value agriculture and agro-processing.
The order comes after the passing of the National Pharmaceutical Product Pricing and Containment policy in October 2020. Rwanda is a signatory to all relevant UN conventions relating to narcotics.
Rwanda joins African countries like Lesotho, Morocco, Uganda and Zimbabwe that have legalised medical use of marijuana.
The production of Cannabis in Rwanda will be done in adherence to the law governing narcotic drugs, psychotropic substances and precursors. The law still categorises Cannabis under illegal narcotics.
The law governing narcotic drugs, psychotropic substances and precursors, imposes fines of between Rwf500,000 ($507) and Rwf5m ($5,078) and prison terms of between three to five years for anyone found illegally using marijuana.