By Spy Uganda
Kampala: A very close source to Ruparelia Group has intimated to our spy that the group is pondering on relocating their multibillion lucrative medical Cannabis growing prospects to neighboring Rwanda after Ugandan authorities developed ‘cold feet’ on issuing licenses for the same. TheSpy Uganda has independently learnt that Gov’t of Uganda has for months been ‘playing hide and seek’ games as far as authorizing Cannabis growing is concerned in Uganda, and this has stalled hundreds of applications at the minister’s desk from various local firms pending authorization for medical Cannabis growing in Uganda. This is partially due to the legal framework gymnastics that have since stalled.
However, in the neighboring Rwanda, things are different. This week Gov’t released streamlined guidelines on how one can apply, acquire and secure license for Cannabis growing poorly for medical purposes. “These are business men, they want more straight things for them to invest their moneys. Uganda was the first in the region to embrace this very lucrative business venture, but along the way, things still run the ‘Ugandan way’,” a sources on condition of anonymity confided last night to our reporter.
According to our source, The Ruparelia Group, under the chairmanship of money mogul Dr.Sudhir Ruparelia has decided to expand their scoop by also applying in Rwanda and are looking forward to investing their as well as they await the Ugandan authorities to ‘sort themselves.
The Narcotic Drugs and Psychotropic Substances Act, 2015, allows cultivation, production and exportation of medical Cannabis and mandates the Uganda’s Health minister to issue written consent for production of medical Cannabis but most companies have been kept guessing waiting for operational licenses in vein which has prompted city tycoon Sudhir Ruperalia to consider other options like Rwanda.
According to the statement from Rwanda Development board seen by TheSpy Uganda titled ”Statement on the Framework for the Production of Medical Cannabis for Export”, it indicates that Rwanda has approved the production of medical Cannabis but only for export which Dr. Sudhir is very eager to venture into.
”The regulatory guidelines approved by Cabinet on 12 October 2020 provide a framework for investment in the production and processing of medical cannabis in Rwanda for export to growing global markets. Rwanda will begin to receive applications for licenses from interested investors for this high-value therapeutic crop”. reads part of the statement.
”This investment framework does not affect the legal status of cannabis consumption in Rwanda, which remains prohibited. Medical cannabis produced in Rwanda is solely for export markets. Rwanda is a signatory to all relevant UN conventions relating to narcotics, and will continue to ensure full compliance with international law. The guidelines establish quality standards, the requirements for licenses and permits, as well as strict security measures designed to prevent any illicit diversion or use of the product,” statement continues.
The Government of Rwanda expects the sector to generate significant export revenues and employment opportunities in high-value agriculture and Agro-processing. A special export levy will be introduced to incentivize domestic value addition and generate additional government revenue, Government revealed.
Growing of cannabis for treating severe medical conditions such as cancer, Parkinson’s disease, Alzheimer’s disease, arthritis and other neurological conditions is already happening in Uganda.
Industrial Hemp (U) Ltd is currently working with Pharma Limited, one of the biggest Israeli cannabis firms, in growing marijuana for medical purposes in Uganda. They have invested $360m (about Shs1.3 trillion) in Hima, Kasese. The company is expected to export medical marijuana from Uganda soon.
Increasing need for pain management therapies and growing disease burden of chronic pain is also expected to boost demand. Scientific study of the chemicals in marijuana called cannabinoids has led to approved medications that contain cannabinoid chemicals in pill form. Those backing marijuana also say the plant contains chemicals that may help treat a range of illnesses, particularly for people with intractable nausea and vomiting, chronic pain, spasticity and epilepsy.
More than 100 companies- foreign and local – have positioned themselves to grow and export marijuana in Uganda and the government this year formed a committee chaired by the Internal Affairs minister, Gen Jeje Odongo, to screen the applicants with a view to kicking out “speculators” and recommending “serious companies and individuals” for medical marijuana licences.
Other committee members include the Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of Internal Affairs, Dr Benon Mutambi, and the police commissioner-in-charge of narcotics, Mr Tinka Zerugaba. The Health ministry also represented on the committee,the Narcotic Drugs and Psychotropic Substances Act, 2015, mandates the ministers to issue letters of consent but most companies which applied for licenses have been waiting in vein even after the ministry of health issued specific guidelines to be followed by the companies, the licenses have never been approved..
At the beginning of this year,The Minister of Health, Dr Jane Ruth Aceng, drafted 15 stringent guidelines that companies seeking to grow marijuana for medical purposes must follow which included the following;
Individuals and companies seeking to grow or export marijuana for medical purposes will be required to present minimum capital of $5m (about Shs18.3 billion) and a bank guarantee of Shs4 billion.
The government will want all investors to present tax clearance certificates from the Uganda Revenue Authority, valid trading license, evidence of value addition to cannabis and audited accounts, among others.
The guidelines further stipulate that marijuana farms/sites must not be located near schools, hospitals and residential areas and in case of any associates/business partners and such details must be disclosed to government including site designs, a robust security system with access control systems and intrusion systems in place.
The draft report by Dr Aceng indicates the stringent guidelines are intended to prevent abuse of the marijuana growing licenses.