Benjamin Cadet is a Ugandan entrepreneur and former Member of Parliament who is into the cultivation of cannabis. He is the CEO of the only company licensed to grow and export cannabis legally in Uganda. Since Industrial Hemp acquired a license in 2012, no other company has done so. Industrial Hemp works with Together Pharma, an Israeli company, to run the cannabis plantation in Uganda, which exports mainly to Germany and other European capitals.
Nir Sosinsky, Together Pharma’s managing director, built his first greenhouses in southern Israel and wanted to expand and open up new cannabis farms worldwide. He heard of Uganda’s cultivation license and through his contacts, he established a partnership with Cadet, according to DW.
Their weed farm is located in Uganda’s Rwenzori Mountains and extends over three hectares in the country’s west, almost directly on the Equator, DW said. Thousands of cannabis plants are in greenhouses that cover almost the size of four football pitches. Hi-tech irrigation systems are used to water the plants and they are labeled with barcodes.
According to Africa Business, several varieties are grown at the farm in order to meet the needs of the market. “In one greenhouse the plants are rich in CBD, a chemical with therapeutic uses. In another, they contain THC, the substance which gets smokers high,” the outlet said.
Cadet and his partner invested $5.6 million in Uganda by establishing a power supply and hiring more than 100 workers from the nearby communities. Initially, Cadet, who is a former Red Cross worker, wanted to go into the cultivation of industrial hemp, which can be used for food and textiles. However, the strains he imported from Europe did not grow well, so he turned his attention to medicinal cannabis.
“When we developed the idea in 2011, we tried different strains. The first strain came from the Netherlands,” Cadet told DW. “But we lacked the finances and contacts in the world market. So that was when we started contacting potential partners.”
Since January this year, airtight 10-gram packets of Ugandan cannabis have been on sale in German pharmacies. Cadet and Sosinsky took advantage of Germany’s Federal Administrative Court ruling that said that patients had a right to access cannabis.
African governments have, over the years, been considering ways to regulate the use of cannabis due to its medicinal and economic benefits. While some scientists maintain that marijuana/cannabis has immense medicinal benefits, critics say it contains harmful chemicals that are 20 per cent more likely to cause cancer to the user than tobacco.
Some even argue that marijuana contains ingredients that can potentially affect the formation of sperm cells and eventually deform them, thus causing temporary sterility. Yet, some African countries are beginning to tap into the profitable industry following the global rise in the use of cannabis- roughly 16 per cent in the decade ending 2016, according to the recent United Nations Office on Drug and Crime (UNODC) drug report.
Following the extent of legalization observed in Europe and the Americas, in May 2018, Zimbabwe legalized growing marijuana for medicinal and research purposes, becoming the second country after Lesotho to do so. Lesotho had, in 2017, become the continent’s first country to offer legal licenses to grow marijuana. In all, six African states have legalized cannabis farming for medicinal or industrial purposes.