As developed countries continue falling over each other to legalise marijuana and its sister-Industrial Hemp, a recent study has shown that cannabis extracts are widely used in making capsules, pain killers, car parts, among others.
While marijuana and Hemp are from the same cannabis family, they’re different: weed is a recreational, intoxicating substance, Hemp, on the other end of the joint, is a sub-species of the cannabis plant with benefits of industrial proportions.
Marijuana is used for recreation as it has a higher level of tetrahydrocannabinol, the psychoactive compound which leaves smokers feeling like touching the sky.
Hemp has lower levels of tetrahydrocannabinol and thus not ideal for altering a person’s mental state via intoxication.
And while marijuana is shorter, Hemp has a taller stature, slender-bladed leaves and a more open bud structure and grow in regions that are sunny, cool or temperate.
This is the difference Ugandan laws need to adjust in favor of medicinal marijuana and industrial hemp.
Yet, according to UN, more than 50 countries have adopted medicinal cannabis with Canada, Uruguay and 15 US states legaling its recreational use while the United Nations Commission on Narcotic Drugs (CND) voted to remove marijuana as a ‘dangerous drug’ for its ‘medicinal and therapeutic potential’. However, the UN does not support marijuana use for ‘non-medical and non-scientific purposes.’
Industrial Hemp, on the other hand, is even more interesting. It has a business high. What with over 100 commercial uses, including for medical conditions like chronic pain, Alzheimer’s and different inflammatory and autoimmune diseases.
This explains why there has been a worldwide campaign to legalize it: US, Canada, Israel, Greece, Austria, Bulgaria, Norway, Ireland, the Netherlands, Czech Republic and North Korea have all legalised it.
In Africa, Malawi, South Africa, Zimbabwe, Zambia, Rwanda and Ghana have legalised Industrial Hemp said to be the next biggest moneymaker while reducing the impact of climate change.
Just so you know, the Farm Bill signed in 2018 by ex-President Donald Trump removed hemp from the Controlled Substances Act and is now being used in textiles and fabrics.
In North Korea, marijuana is illegal but not hemp which is used in making ropes. Hemp is also ideal for making plastics, paper, concrete and other building materials for roofing, flooring, plastering, painting and insulation.
It also makes fibre for vehicle bodies and spare parts, flour and animal feeds. That is not all. Beauty products from hemp include lotions, lip balm, shampoo and conditioners, aromatherapy candles and bath oils. Hemp also makes solar panels, ink, carpets, diapers and shoes.
In medicine, Hemp is used in manufacture of drugs to treat arthritis, asthma, cough and warts.
In Canada, hemp is legally grown, imported and exported via Health Canada, the regulatory authority which has seen licensed hemp farmers increase from over 500 in 2018 to over 1000 in 2020.
There are more than 131,000 acres of land in Canada under hemp whose oils are extracted alongside hemp protein powders and hemp seeds which are similar to sunflower seeds.
In China, hemp is roasted for snacks and oil while about 40 per cent is exported as part of the $6 billion (Sh600 billion) Global Industrial Hemp Market in 2020, according to Verified Market Research which projects its growth to reach $28 billion (Sh2.8 trillion) by 2028.
In the neighboring Kenya, Kenyan researchers Gwada Ogot and Simon Mwaura petitioned Parliament to legalize marijuana for its medicinal and not its recreational use without much success in 2017. “There is no African community that petitioned the Kenyan government to ban cannabis, Ogot told KTN Prime in an interview. “This was foreign-based thing.”
Last year in October, business magnet Sudhir Ruparelia wrote a lengthy letter to President Yoweri Museveni making a case for a need to license local companies that have expressed interest to grow marijuana for medical purposes.
Sudhir’s call came after the ministry of health and government had expressed that allowing the licensed commercial growing of marijuana and cannabis possess a health risk to the public and was therefore working out new laws and regulations to guide the farming of the herb.
In Uganda, Sudhir through Premier Hemp wants to spearhead this business and help the country make money from the trade of marijuana.
He said that market forces will determine which country will capture the market estimated to reach between USD40 billion and USD45 billion by 2025.
“The early birds will certainly catch the most and possibly the biggest worms. Those that will come on the next wave will have to play second-fiddle, hoping and praying for some storms of some kind so they can gain some short-lived windfalls,” Sudhir said in the letter to Museveni.
He said Uganda has a real opportunity to establish both a competitive and a fast-mover advantage in medical marijuana for export business. “We have the right climate and more arable land than most, if not all our neighbours combined,”
“If we miss this opportunity, we may probably never catch up. Medical Marijuana is a whole new industry, a game-changer. Global Research firm Nielsen predicts that by 2025, sales of all legalized cannabis in the U.S. alone will reach $41 billion,”
“Medical marijuana for export will not only create new revenue streams for the country, but it will also spur many other local value-addition sectors and thousands of jobs,” he noted.
Currently, Israeli weed firm pumps Sh40 billion in Uganda
Uganda has licensed two companies to grow marijuana on commercial basis.
Industrial Hemp (U) Ltd and Together Pharma, an Israeli company have been given the nod with 13 more companies awaiting approved by the Ministry of Health which allowed cannabis to be used in treating cancer, Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s, arthritis and other neurological conditions.
About 100 other companies have expressed interest after the rules were revised to permit export for medical purposes.
Pharma Ltd and Industrial Hemp, which grow Industrial Hemp in greenhouses are the biggest marijuana producers in Hima, Kasese having invested $360 million (Sh39 billion), according to Nir Sosinsky, the MD of Together Pharma, citing growth markets for medical cannabis products including inflorescence, capsules, oils, cookies as being in Israeli, Germany and Australia.
Recreational marijuana is illegal in Uganda, but industrial hemp is legal and investors seeking to grow or export marijuana under clinical purposes must have a minimum capital of $5 million (Sh500 million), a bank guarantee of USh4 billion which also includes a tax compliance certificates, valid trading license, audited accounts and evidence of value addition to cannabis as part of the regulations.
Uganda’s Narcotic Drugs and Psychotropic Substances Act 2015 allows for cultivation, production and exportation of medical marijuana after a license is issued by the Ministry of Health.
In April, Ugandan authorities cleared 250kg of marijuana to Tel Aviv, Israel, with former Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu paying $375,000 (Sh37.5 million) for dry cannabis flowers besides exporting Cannabinol and Tetrahydrocannabinol for approved Satives drugs in USA, Europe and Canada.
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