By Hanning Mbabazi
Kampala: The media is awash with news of an Israeli company Globus Pharma, which was recently cleared by the Uganda Investment Authority (UIA) to a start up a huge marijuana plantation in Uganda.
However, Evelyn Anite, the State Minister for Privatisation and Investment, has called upon the Uganda Investment Authority to terminate license and contract they had signed to Global Pharma to grow Marijuana in Uganda. Globus Pharma was given operational license from UIA and has been running business in Uganda since last year. Globus Pharma was awarded a license to grow cannabis in Busongola county, Hima north in Kasese district. However, Anite contends that the license was given behind doors and she doesn’t know anything regarding the project being approved by the state. The Minister also said that government is soon to decide on whether to approve the investment or not. Anite revealed this during a media briefing on Wednesday, at which she said that “This matter has been discussed by cabinet and they have already tasked the Ministry of Health to do thorough investigation and enough research explaining the medical relevance of growing marijuana and other aspects in Uganda.” She noted that the Minister of Health is due to report back to Cabinet on May 15, 2019, before government can decide whether to okay the project or not. She added that “We were faced by four investors who wanted to grow cannabis for medical purposes and set up factories here. We discussed it in Cabinet and the Cabinet paper was deferred with instructions to the Minister of Health to assess the benefits and issues of regulation.” She however added that “But yesterday, I discovered a license had been issued in my backyard. We have to halt the license until proper regulation is made and until Cabinet and Parliament give a proper directive.” Anite also revealed that the Prime Minister Dr. Ruhakana Rugunda has since summoned a meeting slated for next Tuesday for further deliberation on the matter.
“As government, this issue is of great concern. It could turn out we don’t need the investment. We have put the license on hold as we wait for the final position of government on whether we want to attract investors in the growing of cannabis, whether we have the legal regime and what are the benefits,” Anite stated, before directing the investors to stop any operations until government position has been reached.Her directive came after Emely Kugonza, the Board Chairperson UIA, revealing on Wednesday April 10th, 2019 that issuing a license to Globus Pharma was conducted in a proper and procedural manner, led by National Drug Authority and neither Uganda Police nor Ministries of Health and Agriculture had given an objection. “UIA is at the tail end of this process. There was no basis for us to stop this investment. Medical cannabis is acceptable and there are standards for growing it. What we need to ask is whether these standards were followed,” Kugonza said. However, Anite insists that the licensing was done without her knowledge. Globus Pharma announced in April 2018 intentions to up a medical marijuana firm in Uganda, on which they will be cultivating cannabis for medicinal purposes, although this has since raised uproar among various sections of Ugandans and the Parliament.
It should be noted that the Narcotic Drugs and Psychotropic Substances Act 2015, states that anyone involved in the manufacture, production, sale or distribution of a narcotic drug or psychotropic substance commits an offence and is liable, on conviction, to a fine not exceeding Shs2.4m or imprisonment not exceeding five years or both. Because of this police has on several occasions carried out raids and destroyed marijuana farms which they say are illegal, meaning that is Globus Farma starts up a marijuana farms in Uganda, several other small scale farmers may be tempted to grow the plant and sell it to the Israeli firm. Cannabis (marijuana) is a psychoactive drug from the Cannabis Sativa plant used for medical or recreational purposes. It can be used by smoking, vaporizing, within food, or as an extract. It’s short-term side effects on the user may include a decrease in short-term memory, dry mouth, impaired motor skills, red eyes, and feelings of paranoia or anxiety, although it has several adverse side-effects.