Let’s talk about this Marijuana industry

Let’s talk about this Marijuana industry

THE legalisation and decriminalisation of cannabis has been a moot point for decades. The issue has been revived once again with the recent news surfacing about the issuing of a licence to a Cape Town based company, Verve Dynamics, to manufacture cannabis grown in Lesotho for medicinal purposes.

This is occurring for the first time on the African continent.  The use of cannabis in Lesotho is regulated by the Drugs of Abuse Act of 2008 which schedules different chemicals and their components. The laws governing marijuana have come a long way and are continuously changing.

A distinction must be made between the medicinal use of cannabis and the recreational use of the substance. In April the Cape Town high court gave an order granting cannabis users the right to privately use the substance in their homes.
This excludes the possession and use of cannabis in public as well as the distribution thereof.
The tightly restricted use of cannabis illustrates its problems with public policy.

Many people link the substance with other societal problems like addiction and crime, and these opinions are based on years of attitudes formed from observation of the effects of the drug in communities.  As a result, the segment of the population which advocates for more relaxed laws governing the substance finds it difficult to change these attitudes despite advanced empirical evidence.

With the increase of chronic illnesses, pharmaceutical companies and medical personnel are continuing to experiment with cannabis by prescribing it to patients. Countries such as the United States and the Netherlands have advanced policies regarding the substance.
Many states in the United States have passed laws that permit the medicinal use while the recreational use in the Netherlands is legalised.
Before the issuing of this license, the use of cannabis was largely through the black market and mainly for recreational use. The amount of money that circulates in the black market sale of cannabis is enormous.

It also suggests that prohibition of the substance benefits criminals whereas these resources could be transferred towards government revenue that can be spent on improving the economy and programmes that alleviate poverty.
Certain States in the United States have introduced new legislative measures concerning the taxation of cannabis. Colorado is reported to be the first state to allow recreational sales of marijuana with retail consumers paying 30 percent or more in taxes.

Similarly, the State of California has been reported to have acquired $60m in sales tax on medical marijuana while Washington State received $70m in tax revenue from cannabis sales in 2014.  Furthermore, with Australia reporting that consumption of marijuana was twice the consumption of wine, cannabis use cannot be denied and the subject matter calls for further legislative debate following these new revelations in Lesotho.
However, it is interesting to note that the issuing of this license has been much obscured.

This is not the right direction to take considering the conservative nature of the citizens of Lesotho.
A national debate on this issue would allow Basotho to understand the processes undertaken to reach this point. It would also provide the population with important facts which indicate the enormous potential that this industry has.

Considering the landscape of the country, the plant can benefit the agricultural sector enormously if it is regulated correctly. Agriculture is the highest performing sector generating approximately 17 percent of the GDP.  The landscape of Lesotho is exactly why verve dynamics has chosen to do business in Lesotho and the country must take advantage of it.

The key here of course, is the correct regulation of the industry to avoid loopholes that may lead to the incorrect use of the substance.
Most importantly, the agreements made between the government of Lesotho and any company wishing to manufacture this plant must be drafted shrewdly to ensure that substantial proceeds from these deals benefit the country.

The scales are always tipped in favour of the country against any company wishing to do business in Lesotho.
This position of power means that we can negotiate much better deals because any entity wishing to infiltrate our borders is essentially at our mercy.
Our only wish as young people who stand to inherit the land from our predecessors, is to see the end of questionable agreements where the government owns small percentages such as in the case of the diamond mines in the country.

Whether we like it or not, the medicinal marijuana industry is lucrative and gives us an opportunity as a country to take part in a low cost business.
This is a call for transparency on the matter from our leaders to minimise speculation and anxiety. The people deserve that much.
Therefore a national dialogue is needed for the population to be elucidated on these exciting developments.

l Contact Thato for business writing, contracts and speaking at business events on 58419117 or t_mokhothu@yahoo.com

Thato Mokhothu-Ramohlanka

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