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Botswana Quietly Joins the African Cannabis Revolution as High Court Upholds Fresh Standard’s Exclusive Cannabis Deal

High Court rules in Fresh Standard’s favour that it could legally grow hemp

Botswana has effectively legalized cannabis for export following the outcome of a protracted court case that was the result of bitter political infighting in Africa’s ‘most stable’democracy’.

 

In an unprecedented ruling on 21 January 2022, the High Court in Gaberone gave Fresh Standard (Pty) Ltd the exclusive license to produce hemp and cannabis for industrial and medical purposes in the country.  Fresh Standard’s controlling shareholder is Professor Benny de Beer of CBD Full Spectrum, a South African cannabis license holder operating out of the Vaal Triangle and the initiator of this country’s first medical cannabis patient roll-out.

 

Police destroyed legal fledgling hemp crop without warning

Fresh Standard’s lawyer, Charles McErick told Farmers Weekly on 3 January 2022 that the Botswana Ministry of Agriculture had in 2018 awarded the company’s director and farmer Barend de Beer an exemption and licence to grow hemp and cannabis for industrial and medicinal purposes. However, a year later the government withdrew the licence and sent law enforcement officers to raid De Beer’s farm, and a fledgling hemp crop was uprooted.

In court papers McErick said: “[De Beer] was never notified that government was considering withdrawing the exemption [and of] the reasons for the proposed withdrawal, [nor was he] afforded a hearing prior to such withdrawal as a principle of fairness and natural justice,”   De Beer stood to lose contracts of around P750 million (about R1,02 billion) to supply hemp oil and medicinal by-products, following the cancellation of the exemption and the uprooting of his crops.

 

Agriculture Secretary was out of line in cancelling permit

In awarding Fresh Standard permission to continue its business, in a first of its kind court case in Botswana, Justice Chris Gabanagae, found that the agreement had been cancelled by the Permanent Secrerary in the Department of Agriculture, a decision he was not mandated to do. Judge Gabanagae said this was unambiguously a ministerial decision. 

“The minister never delegated his powers to the Permanent Secretary or to any other person for that matter as these are non-delegable,” reads the judgment.

“I conclude as a fact that the minister never withdrew the exemption. It is declared that the exemption letter constitutes a valid and lawful exemption in terms of Section 20 of the PPA. The respondent is to pay the cost of this application including costs of the senior counsel,” ruled Justice Gabanagae.

The ruling effectively means that Fresh Standard has been given the green light to restart its ambitious Botswana hemp programme.  It’s unclear at this stage whether Professor de Beer intends claiming for further damages.

 

Read the background to the case here

 

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