Israeli investors to grow marijuana in Uganda

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The company said the order for seeds has been placed with a supplier in the Netherlands — considered to be one of the world’s leading cannabis suppliers.

Police burning marijuana in an operation recently

An Israel firm, Together Pharma Limited, has reportedly secured land in Uganda to cultivate a banned crop — marijuana — on a commercial scale.

The firm, said to be the manufacturer and distributor of medical cannabis, disclosed last week that it has placed an order for (cannabis) seeds for a farm the company is establishing in Uganda, according to The Times of Israel newspaper.

The company said the order for seeds has been placed with a supplier in the Netherlands — considered to be one of the world’s leading cannabis suppliers. It also indicated that production from its Ugandan farm could be realised by January next year.

“The order of the seeds represents an important milestone towards growing cannabis on a farm in Uganda and marketing produce to a Canadian customer by the beginning of next year,” Nissim Bracha, the company’s Chief Executive Officer, reportedly said in a statement.

The Times of Israel reported in April that the company had closed a deal to supply five tonnes of cannabis oil to a Canadian firm and that the contract could potentially yield revenue in hundreds of millions of dollars. In the same month, Reuters news agency, reported that Together Pharma plans to grow up to 25 acres of medical cannabis in a “foreign country” in a deal that could potentially bring sales of $75m to $300m, depending on the size of each harvest.

The company indicated that its subsidiary, Globus Pharma, signed the deal with the country it did not name for marijuana cultivation. In the Reuters report, the Israel firm said production from the farm it is setting up in a foreign country could be ready in the first quarter of 2019. The Uganda Investment Authority (UIA) Executive Director, Basil Ajer, said the institution does not license investors for marijuana cultivation.

“That is an area we do not even handle. It is illegal. Probably the health ministry and National Drug Authority (NDA) might know. We do not even license companies to grow marijuana for medical purposes,” he added, “Since not all land in Uganda is owned by the Government, such a company could also partner with an individual to grow the crop on his or her land,” Ajer said. But the mandate of NDA as far as cannabis is concerned does not extend to the crop’s cultivation.

The authority is only expected to monitor the content of narcotics and psychotropics in imported drugs. Each country has its parameters on the volume of the content of narcotics and psychotropics imported drugs should contain — beyond which such medicines are not expected to be allowed into a country.

“The planting of cannabis is actually supposed to be controlled by the Police,” a source at NDA, said. The Police spokesperson, Emilian Kayima, said the force has not been engaged regarding any supposed investment in cannabis growing, but added that the institution charged with keeping law and order would not bless such an undertaking.

“Ideally, if such an option was on the table, it would be handled by the health and internal affairs ministries and then the Police would come in. Without the Police, I do not see it happening,” he added. “There is no way the Police can give such approval. We are already having grave problems. It doesn’t matter the purpose of planting it. You cannot guarantee it won’t be misused. We would be doomed if the country chose that direction,” the Police publicist said.

The law According to the Narcotic Drugs and Psychotropic Substances Act 2015, 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 fi ne not exceeding sh2.4m or imprisonment not exceeding fi ve years or both.

The law also prohibits the cultivation of any plant from which narcotic drugs and psychotropic substances may be extracted without permission from the health minister. The prohibited plants, according to the law, include cannabis, coca bush, catha edulis, papaver sominferum (opium poppy) and papaver setigerum.

Together Pharma Limited has permission to grow and market marijuana for medical justifi cations in Israel. It is estimated that Israel could earn between $285m and $1.14b a year from the industry.  There are several companies in Israel engaged in cannabis production. Apparently, a ban on exports is prompting manufacturers of products containing marijuana to look outside Israel for largescale cannabis cultivation.

NewVision.co.ug

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