Uganda’s legal cannabis industry is out of the starting blocks despite high-level political opposition. Over 100 companies have expressed interest in cultivating cannabis for export in Uganda but it appears that the only confirmed legal operator at present is Israel’s Together Pharma and it’s local partner Industrial Hemp Uganda.
Uganda’s Ministry of Health has approved the guidelines for farming cannabis, even though many parliamentarians oppose legalization. The First Lady and Education minister, Ms. Janet Museveni, called the Israeli cannabis deal “satanic”, but legalization has had the support of her husband, President Yoweri Musuveni, who has been lobbied by big business to speed up cannabis reform.
Cabinet approved the guidelines on 27 January, 2020, after President Museveni met potential investors Natgro and Prime Ranchers. A committee has been set up to regulate cannabis reform. It is chaired by the Prime Minister, Dr. Ruhakana Rugunda, and includes the ministers of Health, (Jane Ruth Aceng), Trade (Amelia Kyambadde), Finance (Matia Kasaija), Agriculture (Vincent Ssempijja), and Internal Affairs (Gen Jeje Odongo).
Cannabis reform also has the backing of influential politicians such as Dr Chris Baryomunsi, Dr Elioda Tumwesigye, Gen Kahinda Otafiire and Mr Hilary Onek.
Last year Ugandan parliamentarians asked Prime Minister Ruhakana Rugunda to explain the country’s unclear position on growing marijuana. He has yet to respond.
President Musuveni: can’t help it if his wife believes cannabis is the devil’s drug
Health Ministry ‘bogged down’ over cannabis policy
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, Health Minister Dr Jane Ruth Aceng has gone on record that the applications will have to wait for the final decision of Cabinet.
Uganda’s Daily Monitor reports that whatever the situation, the Health Ministry is not on top of the situation
“The Health Ministry is bogged down by the lack of legal regimes to regulate the growing of marijuana and for that matter has refused to license close to 100 companies desiring to farm the hemp.
Since last year when there was heightened demand for licenses to legally plant and grow marijuana for medicinal purposes, the ministry of health commenced a process to revisit the laws and regulations on the matter but hasn’t come up with a promising position.
But what is most frustrating to some of the companies that despite applying for license many months to no avail is that some companies are illegally farming and exporting the herb to Europe. They say this is unfair, illegal and a bad gesture for a country like Uganda to hobnob with foreign firms at the detriment of local ones”
Eastern Ugandan news service mknewslink.com tried to get comment from Health Minister Aceng about the status of cannabis reform but she asked them to “leave her alone”.
“I’m tired of responding to the issue of marijuana, please leave me. I am tired. I don’t know what else you people want me to tell you that I have not already told you….Forgive me [but] I am tired and am not going to discuss that subject anymore. Go to the companies [and] ask them to give you the minister’s response and I responded to nearly 50 of them.”
Health minister Aceng: licensing is a tiresome business
Cannabis players hoping to get Ugandan licenses
Cannabiz Africa understands that among the companies expecting licenses are:
- Natgro Phama (U) Ltd,
- Medraw (U) SMC Ltd,
- Urban Properties (U) Ltd,
- Prime Ranchers,
- Silver Seeds (U) Ltd,
- Dave and Dave Group,
- Seven Blades,
- Cannops Africa,
- Quest Worths International Group,
- Premier Hemp,
- Sativa Agro-tech Ltd,
- Zeus Agro Ltd
- Owesia (U) Ltd.
The export of cannabis for medicinal purposes was approved by the Ugandan Ministry of Health in January 2020, which stipulated among other things that all cannabis exporters had to have a minimum capital of 18.3 million Ugandan shillings or US$5 million. Prior to this, however, Industrial Hemp Uganda, a private company based in Hima, Kasese District, had already been exporting medicinal cannabis to Germany and China via Together in Israel.
Workers tend cannabis seedlings at a farm owned by Industrial Hemp Ltd in Kasese District, Uganda.
Israeli deal causes local friction
Uganda’s Daily Monitor reports that Uganda is required to supply 2.5 tonnes of medical cannabis to Israel’s pharmaceutical industry at a set rate of US$1 500/kg. The Israelis are looking for cannabidiol (CBD) and tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) – the two important natural drug manufacturing compounds found in plants of the cannabis genus.
But while Industrial Hemp is cracking deals, many local companies with similar or better capabilities are wallowing in inactivity after the ministry of health refused to offer them licenses to deal in marijuana.
Ugandans getting to grips with legal cannabis
There are more than 100 bids from companies and individuals seeking to secure government clearance to grow and export marijuana for medical purposes. Among the requirements to earn the license, these companies will have to present evidence of marijuana buyers.
The government is also under pressure from the various marijuana dealers to explain why they allowed Industrial Hemp (U) Ltd, a private company working with another Israeli-based cannabis firm to grow marijuana in Kasese and “frustrated” others through “delaying tactics”.