Le­sotho could lose out on lu­cra­tive mar­i­juana in­dus­try

Lesotho Times - - Front Page - Her­bert Moyo

LE­SOTHO faces the prospect of be­ing over­taken and left be­hind in the multi-bil­lion dol­lar med­i­cal mar­i­juana in­dus­try after Zim­babwe re­cently moved to le­galise the grow­ing of the medic­i­nal plant.

Le­sotho be­came the first African coun­try to le­galise the grow­ing of med­i­cal mar­i­juana amid high ex­pec­ta­tions that the coun­try would im­mensely ben­e­fit from the world­wide in­dus­try which is pro­jected by forbes.com to grow from US$7, 7 bil­lion in 2017 to $31, 4 bil­lion in 2021.

Ac­cord­ing to the Grand View Re­search Inc, the global med­i­cal mar­i­juana mar­ket is ex­pected to reach a value of US$ 55, 8 bil­lion by 2025.

As the first African coun­try to le­galise the grow­ing of med­i­cal mar­i­juana, it ap­peared that Le­sotho was on course to reap the re­wards es­pe­cially after the gov­ern­ment is­sued li­cences to some com­pa­nies to grow the prod­uct for ex­port.

How­ever, the coun­try still has a long way to en­sure the vi­a­bil­ity of the in­dus­try with gov­ern­ment sources telling this pub­li­ca­tion that the gov­ern­ment is work­ing flat out to fi­nalise the leg­is­la­tion that will gov­ern the op­er­a­tions of com­pa­nies in the sec­tor.

It has been said that five com­pa­nies were li­censed by the pre­vi­ous seven par­ties’ coali­tion gov­ern­ment to grow med­i­cal mar­i­juana.

The min­is­ter of health, Nkaku Kabi was not reach­able when this pub­li­ca­tion sought to gain an in­sight into the lat­est de­vel­op­ments.

And while Le­sotho is still work­ing on the rel­e­vant leg­is­la­tion, Zim­babwe ap­pears to have stolen a march after it gazzetted the reg­u­la­tions to gov­ern the pro­duc­tion and ex­port of med­i­cal mar­i­juana last Fri­day.

The li­cences will how­ever, not come cheap as it will cost US$50 000 (M600 000) for a five year li­cence to grow med­i­cal mar­i­juana at one site.

Those in­tend­ing to grow the crop at dif­fer­ent sites will have to fork out US$50 000 for each site of pro­duc­tion.

On Tues­day, Zim­babwe’s Health Min­is­ter, David Parirenyatwa told the Le­sotho Times in an ex­clu­sive in­ter­view that Zim­babwe had moved to le­galise the grow­ing of med­i­cal mar­i­juana be­cause if its huge po­ten­tial to grow the coun­try’s econ­omy through ex­ports of cannabis oils for medic­i­nal pur­poses.

“We will mak­ing an­nounce­ments in due course but for now I can say that med­i­cal mar­i­juana will help to grow the econ­omy as there is a huge ex­port mar­ket for cannabis oils,” Dr Parirenytwa said.

“The pro­duc­tion of med­i­cal mar­i­juana will cre­ate jobs and will also con­trib­ute to nu­tri­tion as it is high in pro­teins.”

Al­though he would not con­firm re­ports that he was re­cently in Le­sotho on a fact-find­ing mis­sion on the fledg­ing med­i­cal mar­i­juana in­dus­try, Dr Parirenytwa said there was a pos­si­bil­ity that the two coun­tries would co­op­er­ate on med­i­cal mar­i­juana.

The gov­ern­ment gazette is­sued on Fri­day in Zim­babwe and seen by the Le­sotho Times pro­vides a clear frame­work out­lin­ing the cir­cum­stances un­der which li­cences may be is­sued, the du­ra­tion, who qual­i­fies as well as the con­di­tions un­der which med­i­cal mar­i­juana may be pro­duced.

Li­cences will or­di­nar­ily be given to Zim­bab­weans and Zim­bab­wean com­pa­nies al­though for­eign­ers who are res­i­dent in Zim­babwe and those who have been given a spe­cial dis­pen­sa­tion by the health min­is­ter can also qual­ify.

“An ap­pli­ca­tion for a li­cence shall be made to the Min­is­ter (of Health), and shall be ac­com­pa­nied by the ap­pro­pri­ate fee and three copies of a plan of the site pro­posed to be li­censed,” part of the new law known as the Statu­tory In­stru­ment 62 of 2018 (Dan­ger­ous Drugs – Pro­duc­tion of Cannabis for Medic­i­nal and Sci­en­tific Use Reg­u­la­tions) states.

“In the case of an in­di­vid­ual, proof of cit­i­zen­ship or proof of be­ing or­di­nar­ily res­i­dent in Zim­babwe or proof of an ex­emp­tion by the Min­is­ter (will be re­quired).

“In the case of a com­pany, proof of cit­i­zen­ship or proof of be­ing or­di­nar­ily res­i­dent in Zim­babwe of the ma­jor­ity of di­rec­tors or proof of an ex­emp­tion by the Min­is­ter and proof of in­cor­po­ra­tion in Zim­babwe of the com­pany are re­quired,” the statu­tory in­stru­ment states.

Un­like Le­sotho where the cur­rent fo­cus is on grow­ing for ex­port, Zim­babwe is also tar­get­ing value ad­di­tion to achieve greater re­turns by al­low­ing med­i­cal mar­i­juana prod­ucts like the cannabis oil to be lo­cally pro­duced for ex­port.

“The ap­pli­ca­tion shall also con­tain the fol­low­ing – (a) if ap­pli­ca­ble, the max­i­mum quan­tity ex­pressed as net weight in grammes of fresh cannabis, dried cannabis, cannabis oil to be pro­duced by the ap­pli­cant un­der the li­cence and the pro­duc­tion pe­riod . . . and the max­i­mum num­ber of cannabis plants to be sold or pro­vided by the ap­pli­cant un­der the li­cence and the pe­riod in which that quan­tity is to be sold or pro­vided.”

The li­cence will how­ever, be de­nied in the event that “in­for­ma­tion has been re­ceived from a peace of­fi­cer, a com­pe­tent author­ity or the United Na­tions that the ap­pli­cant has been in­volved in the di­ver­sion of a con­trolled sub­stance or pre­cur­sor to an il­licit mar­ket or use”.

With the reg­u­la­tions firmly in place, Le­sotho could soon find it­self play­ing sec­ond fid­dle to Zim­babwe which al­ready boasts of the in­fra­struc­ture for com­mer­cial agri­cul­ture.

Zim­babwe has been a world leader in the pro­duc­tion of some com­mer­cial crops in­clud­ing to­bacco and it boasts of ex­ten­sive in­fra­struc­ture which in­cludes an ef­fi­cient road net­work, a rail­way sys­tem which is con­nected to the com­mer­cial farm­ing ar­eas as well as a cargo freight air­line for the ex­port of agri­cul­tural and other pro­duce.

Le­sotho still stands a chance of claim­ing a sig­nif­i­cant share of the lu­cra­tive med­i­cal mar­i­juana mar­ket if the gov­ern­ment speed­ily im­ple­ments the reg­u­la­tions and pro­vides other forms of sup­port to stim­u­late pro­duc­tion.

LE­SOTHO be­came the first African coun­try to le­galise the grow­ing of med­i­cal mar­i­juana.

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