By Andrew Irumba
Kampala: Weed, marijuana or cannabis has become one of Uganda’s leading exports after the government sealing a deal to export Shs600Bn worth of the narcotic to Canada and Germany.
Although the Canada and Germany consignments will be exported in June this year, sources reveal that the government is already exporting weed and that on December 7, 2017, Uganda exported unrefined cannabis buds/ flowers to South Africa’s National Analytical Forensic Services in Pretoria. The order was issued to Industrial Hemp (U) Ltd, a private company and was valued at USD10,000 (Shs37.1m). Recently, the Uganda Investment Authority (UIA) gave license to an Israeli company known as Pharma Ltd to grow several acres of marijuana in Kasese district. 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. Benjamin Cadet, one of the directors at Industrial Hemp (U) Ltd, which is working together Pharma Ltd, confirmed Monday medical cannabis orders from at least 20,000 pharmacies in Canada and Germany. Some of the firms growing marijuana include; Industrial Hemp (U) Ltd, Together Pharma Ltd, 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 (U) Ltd, Sativa Agro-tech Ltd, Zeus Agro Ltd and Owesia U Ltd. According to 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.
“We signed annual supply contracts with pharmacies in Canada to a tune of USD100m (Shs371.8b) and €58m (Shs242.3b) for Germany… the current contracts run for 10 years but along the way, we shall expand to satisfy future demand,” Cadet said. He added that “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.” This however comes at a time when a five-member Cabinet committee is to meet 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. 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