Uganda Gov’t seals deal to export marijuana to Canada

Some of the workers at the marijuana farm in Hima. Courtesy photo

Kampala. Uganda is set to export medical marijuana products to Canada and Germany worth Shs600b in June, Daily Monitor has learnt. 
It has also emerged that on December 7, 2017, Uganda exported unrefined cannabis buds/ flowers to South Africa’s National Analytical Forensic Services in Pretoria.

 The order to Industrial Hemp (U) Ltd, a private company, was valued at $10,000 (Shs37.1m). 
The marijuana exports from a farm in Kasese District include Cannabinol (CBD) and Tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) with mixture of 2.7mg THC and 2.5mg CBD for Sativex drugs approved in USA, Europe and Canada. Oil Risin contain Dronabinol for making Marinol and syndros capsules and CBD enriched creams for various skin disorders.

Mr Benjamin Cadet, one of the directors at Industrial Hemp (U) Ltd, a private firm jointly working with an Israel company, Together Pharma Ltd, yesterday confirmed medical cannabis orders from at least 20,000 pharmacies in Canada and Germany.

“We signed annual supply contracts with pharmacies in Canada to a tune of $100m and €58m for Germany… the current contracts run for 10 years but along the way, we shall expand to satisfy future demand,” Mr Cadet said.

“People are using morphine, the main component of opium as an analgesic for cancer pain. Opium is an Opioid and more addictive and with side effects yet Cannabinol (CBD) from medical marijuana is the best option for such patients…Cancer patients are using CBD illegally. We have the scientists and the technology to do this but regulations are not in place to allow cannabis drugs manufactured for domestic consumption,” he added.

WebMD, a global website that provides health information, states that the greatest amount of evidence for the therapeutic effects of cannabis relate to its ability to reduce chronic pain, nausea and vomiting due to chemotherapy and spasticity [tight or stiff muscles].

The news about the exportation of medical marijuana products came as a five-member Cabinet committee meets this morning to discuss the dangers and benefits of medical marijuana.

The committee chaired by the Prime Minister, Dr Ruhakana Rugunda, includes Health minister Jane Ruth Aceng, Trade (Amelia Kyambadde), Finance (Matia Kasaija), Agriculture (Vincent Ssempijja), and Internal Affairs (Gen Jeje Odongo). 
About 20 companies have so far sent letters to Dr Aceng requesting to grow marijuana for medical purposes.

The Cabinet sub-committee was tasked to look at the health and financial benefits from medical marijuana, one of the money-spinning, but highly sensitive ventures. The committee is expected to table its findings to Cabinet on May 15.

Although the First Lady and Education minister, Ms Janet Museveni, called the cannabis deal “satanic,” other ministers such as Dr Chris Baryomunsi, Dr Elioda Tumwesigye, Gen Kahinda Otafiire and Mr Hilary Onek have argued that Cannabinoids -- the active chemicals in medical marijuana -- are similar to chemicals the body makes that are involved in appetite, memory, movement and pain.

Those backing medical marijuana say its chemicals are used to treat a number of different health conditions, including appetite loss, cancer, inflammatory bowel disease, eating disorders such as anorexia; epilepsy; glaucoma.

Sources close to State House told Daily Monitor that Cabinet debate on medical marijuana came after President Museveni met potential investors (Natgro and Prime Ranchers) before he travelled to Switzerland in January.

The President had instructed Dr Rugunda to work with Dr Aceng and look into the medical components of cannabis. 
Maj Gen Otafiire told ministers that the Narcotic Drugs and Psychotropic Substances Act 2015 was duly passed by Cabinet before it went to Parliament.

The law allows cultivation, production and exportation of medical marijuana.

Under the same legislation, the Heath Minister is required to give written consent to verified drug growers.

The written consent allows the applicants to commence the application process to National Drug Authority and other agencies. 
Dr Elioda Tumwesigye, the Health minister, in December 2014 granted a no-objection to Industrial Hemp (U) Ltd to grow and export medical marijuana.

Mr Onek, then Internal Affairs Minister and former Police Chief, Gen Kale Kayihura also cleared the venture. 
The doctors and other experts who talked to Daily Monitor are divided on the matter.

Some see no danger in allowing medical marijuana and asked government to put regulations in place yet others have Cabinet to go slow on the matter.