UIA allows Israeli firm to grow marijuana without health minister’s consent

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A budding mature marijuana plant

Uganda Investment Authority (UIA) cleared an Israeli firm “Together Pharma” to grow marijuana in Uganda without the consent of the health ministry.

This is according to a license signed by the Acting UAI Executive Director, Lawrence Byensi, on March 18, 2019.

“This investment License has been issued under Section 16 of the Investment Code, 1991,” Byensi wrote in a licence quoted by Uganda Radio Network [URN].

He said the provision of the Investment Code 1991 and Guidelines and Procedures brought into effect under it shall apply.

The license shows that the company will operate in Uganda as Industrial Globus Uganda Ltd and has land to grow medical cannabis (marijuana) for export in Kasese, Busongora County North 079, Hima Town Council.

Its shareholders include Globus Pharma Inc. based in Israel and Industrial Hemp Uganda Ltd run by former Bunyaruguru MP, Benjamin Cadet.

The company that also intends to build a marijuana oil extraction plant in Kampala indicates that its initial investment in Uganda is $5m (Shs18.7bn).

This is contrary to a directive by Justice and Constitutional Affairs Minister Kahinda Otafiire, contained in a February 15, 2019 letter addressed to the chief operating officer of Together Pharma.

“Firstly, there is no single license given to grow hemp and medical cannabis in Uganda,” Otafiire wrote.

He explained that the law requires that the applicant gets the necessary clearance from various ministries concerned and the National Drug Authority [NDA].

The government of Uganda is well aware of their operations in Kasese district and the various benefits the said project has in terms of employment to Ugandans, revenue generation, and technology transfer, Otafiire noted.

Health Minister Jane Ruth Aceng also clarified that she had never granted Together Pharma permission to start a marijuana farm in Uganda.

“I have never given such permission. Cabinet sat and said we need to do more research on this issue,” Aceng told URN.

She said the law allows only the minister of Health to approve and then other processes can go on. “I have not done that.”

The National Drug Policy and Authority Act, 1993 provides that “No person shall, without the written consent of the Health Minister… cultivate any plant from, which a narcotic drug can be extracted”.

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