Article: Uganda “policy towards cannabis is currently a haze of confusion”

African Business reports on an industry caught in the middle most important election the country has held in a generation..

Ugandan policy towards cannabis is currently a haze of confusion. Although Industrial Hemp acquired a licence in 2012, no other company has done so. Scores of entrepreneurs have applied unsuccessfully to the health ministry.

In February 2020, Ugandan media reported that the cabinet had failed to reach consensus on proposed regulations to guide the medicinal cannabis sector, and progress has since stalled with the onset of the Covid-19 pandemic. The health minister, who was campaigning in elections at time of writing, did not respond to a request for comment from African Business.

“The opportunities for cannabis and marijuana in Uganda are enormous because the demand for alternative medicines is only growing worldwide,” says Donald Wasake of Brothers Intelligence, a Kampala-based consultancy, who has advised about 25 firms who have applied for licences. “All those people there are in the queue waiting for their licences. For [Together Pharma] to be working right now while all these local businesses are not working is leaving a sour taste in the local businesses’ mouth.”

There are strict requirements to enter the industry, covering areas such as security and minimum levels of capital. “Which Ugandans have this kind of money?” asks Wasake. “Aren’t you setting us up to fail in our own country?”

International firms like Together Pharma have the capital and experience to overcome those restraints. But they face other kinds of risks. The global market for cannabis is still young, which makes it unpredictable. Together Pharma’s shares soared in value in 2018 but are now trading at just 18% of their peak.

But Danino, the former police chief, is optimistic that demand for cannabis will grow as more governments loosen regulations. “The market is going to be so big,” he says with conviction. “The biggest question is how long it’s going to take.”

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