EAST AFRICA WEIGHS PROFIT POTENTIAL IN MEDICAL CANNABIS FOR EXPORT

Lesotho field of medical pot

Oct. 26, 2020 (GIN) – “Some of these therapeutic crops can fetch around $10 million per hectare of production. Flowers fetch about $300,000 from one hectare, so economically it is a potentially good business for the country.”

That was Clare Akamanzi, CEO of Rwanda Development Board as Rwanda became the latest East African partner state to approve the export of pot for medical uses, following closely in the footsteps of Uganda.

The country has developed and approved the bloc’s first framework for cannabis export, and is now reviewing bids from interested investors.

This investment framework does not affect the legal status of cannabis consumption in Rwanda which remains a crime and draws two years in jail, while selling it is punishable by 20 years to life in prison.

Uganda has the most advanced guidelines for the production and export of medical cannabis, although it also remains illegal in the country.

The country first registered a cannabis firm in 2012 — Industrial Hemp Uganda Ltd — to grow and develop cannabis exports. More firms have joined since then, including the Israeli marijuana company, Together Pharma, which has an agreement with Industrial Hemp to invest in production for clients in Europe and America.

Tanzania and Kenya, which produce the largest amounts of cannabis in the region, are yet to legalize the commodity and so it is exported illegally.

In Kenya, a medical marijuana bill was introduced in the National Assembly in 2018 which would have decriminalized weed as well as offered amnesty for those prosecuted for growing or using pot.

But MP Ken Okoth — who was suffering from cancer and testified that marijuana helped relieve his pain — died in July 2019 before the law could be passed.

After his death, Senator Ledama Olekina took up the campaign to legalize cannabis for medical use.

“Why is it that we in Kenya are still stuck with the old way? If this drug reduces pain in cancer patients, why don’t we legalize it? What is so bad about it, we only live once,” Olekina said in an online video.

Meanwhile, Lesotho and Zimbabwe have strong backing for the development of medical marijuana from the medical and business communities.

While in the Rainbow Nation of South Africa, pot has been pushed mainly for recreation by the political group Dagga Party of South Africa. Dagga is a local street name for cannabis which forms the party’s platform.

Other countries where campaigns to change the legal status of cannabis have picked up steam are Malawi, Morocco, Ghana and eSwatini.