On 6 March 2012, the then Bunyaruguru County(in Rubirizi) MP Cadet Benjamin wrote to the then Agriculture minister, Tress Bucyanayandi asking for a go head to grow what was termed as “hemp” in Kasese.
According to internet, Hemp, or industrial hemp is typically found in the northern hemisphere and is a strain of the Cannabis sativa plant species that is grown specifically for the industrial uses of its derived products.
Following the legislator’s letter, the minister responded giving a green light to the project.
“The ministry of agriculture, animal industry and fisheries has not objection to the growing of this crop in Uganda,” the agriculture minister responded.
He however warned that the planting materials imported for the cannabis should conform to the required standards.
The letter was copied to the NARO director general and the director crop resources in the ministry.
Kayihura clears the project
Meanwhile, among other people that the legislator wrote to was the then Inspector General of Police, Gen.Kale Kayihura asking for clearance to grow cannabis in Uganda.
As it happened at all stages, the deal went through unhindered and in a June 4, 2012 letter, Kayihura said there was no problem with growing the plant.
“I have no objection from a security and crime perspective to your project of growing industrial hemp in Uganda,”Kayihura wrote.
The Internal Affairs Minister then, Hilary Onek also in July 2012 gave a nod for the company to proceed with the project.
Health Ministry gives rationale for growing cannabis
In a January 22, 2015 letter, the ministry of Health gave a rationale for growing cannabis in Uganda saying it would help in reduction of non-communicable diseases.
“We are very interested in the medicinal component of your industrial activities and how it could contribute to the reduction of the burden of non-communicable diseases in Uganda,” Prof. Anthony Mbonye, the then director in charge of Health Services in the health ministry wrote.
“I am recommending to you the department of pharmacy – Makerere College of Health Sciences together with the division of pharmacy in the Ministry of Health .They should work to address issues of product development and quality control.”
The letter was also copied to the then Permanent Secretary in the health ministry.
NDA hits last nail
The National Drug Authority in what looked as the last nail cleared the Israel firm to grow cannabis in Uganda through their April 2016 letter.
“National Drug Authority has noted that you have already obtained clearance for the same from Uganda Police, ministry of Health, and ministry of Agriculture. Basing on the purpose of manufacture, NDA has no objection,” said NDA Executive Director, Donna Kusemererwa.
“However, you should clarify on the type of manufacturing that you intend to carry out whether it is the manufacture of the finished product or raw materials,” the letter added.
Firm gets licence
In March 2019, Uganda Investment Authority gave licence to the Israel firm to start growing medical cannabis for export in Kasese, Busongora County North, Hima Town Council.
The licence number 2019200728 was issued under section 16 of the Investment Code 1999.
According to the licence that the Nile Post has seen the company involved in the cannabis growing business is Industrial Globus Uganda Limited along Jinja road ,Nyakakindo Karungibat ward Hima, Kikongo Kasese, Busongora County North , Hima town council , Uganda.
Composition of the company
According to the licence, the company has seven shareholders, six of whom are Israelites and only one is Ugandan.
The shareholders are named as Globus Pharma Incorporation (Israel), Industrial Hemp Uganda Limited, Osher Hasan(Israel), Abir Israel Company Incorporation(Israel), Yosef Rotband(Israel), Hai Shvarzman(Israel) and Arieh Ken(Israel).
Terms of the licence
In the terms and conditions as set by the Uganda Investment Authority, the Israel firm is expected to have its expatriate workers approved by the body whereas the foreign capital investments shall be invested in the project a year after the date of licensing.
“The mode of arbitration in the settlement of disputes as provided for under section 28 of the investment code 1991,”reads in part the licence.
The Israel firm was also tasked to maintain proper financial and accounting records , returns and samples date relating to its operations.
According to their website, Industrial Hemp Uganda Limited td was founded and legally incorporated in 2012 within the laws of Republic of Uganda.
“Industrial Hemp is a non-profit organisation company that grows and processes medical Cannabis/hemp, licensed and supervised by Ministry of Health and other responsible government agencies/department like Uganda Police Force in Uganda,” their website reads.
“The Company is primarily engaged in the growing and development of medical cannabis (Medical Marijuana) and cannabis products alongside sativa for industrial purposes in Uganda.”
The State Minister for Investment, Evelyn Anite on Wednesday said the company’s licence had been halted because it had been issued through the backdoor.
“Cabinet tasked the Ministry of Health to do research and give a report on the matter in two months ending next month,”Anite said on Wednesday.
“We have put the licence on halt as we wait for final position by cabinet on growing the cannabis. The discussion is on and we are waiting for the minister of health.”
The investment minister explained that the issue came up after four different investors brought proposals to government to get licence to grow cannabis for medicinal purposes, noting that cabinet had to discuss it.
She noted that when it was brought to cabinet, a paper was deferred with instructions to the health minister to do more research about the health benefits for cannabis and other legal provisions before a decision is taken.
“When I learnt that it had been done behind my back, I made phone calls for halting the licence until cabinet disposes of this matter and proper regulation is put in place,”Anite noted.