5 firms to grow matekoane

5 firms to grow matekoane

MASERU – FIVE companies have been licensed to grow marijuana (matekoane) for medicinal purposes under a pilot project managed by the Ministry of Health.

The ministry has refused to reveal the names of the companies citing secrecy provisions of the International Narcotics Control Board (INCB) which controls the production, export and import of such products.

It is understood that four of the companies are locally owned.

The other is Verve Dynamics, a Cape Town-based company.

Verve Dynamics has already announced that it got the licence. Its statement however gave the impression that it was the only company that has been granted the licence.

The Ministry of Health said it was not ready to say who owns the other four companies because of the INCB regulations.

Some of the companies are said to have already started production in Qacha’s Nek and Thaba-Tseka, but the Ministry of Health could not confirm this.

The Principal Secretary of the Ministry of Health, Monaphathi Maraka, could not give further details but said the ministry called for an ‘expression of interest’ from companies that wanted to participate in the project.

He said there is likelihood that some of the companies might involve communities in the cultivation, harvesting and packaging of the marijuana.

The government hopes that with time some of the communities might get licences to produce medicinal marijuana, Maraka said.

Tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), an active ingredient in the plant that has psychoactive effects, is the “gold” the medical industry wants from marijuana.

It’s used by patients for sedation, relaxation and pain-relief.

Some research has shown that medical marijuana can reduce nausea and enhance appetite, soothe anxiety and even reduce epileptic seizures.

There are also studies that it helps cancer patients cope with pain.

Cultivated in a greenhouse, a marijuana plant can yield 30 grammes but when grown naturally it can yield as much as 200 grammes.

Maraka said Lesotho’s climate and soil makes it the right place for the cultivation of medicinal marijuana.  

Medicinal marijuana is a fledgling but highly controlled industry. The control gets right to the number of seeds imported. How and where it is cultivated should remain strictly confidential.

The INCB member countries should comply with its strict regulations even if they have not ratified the three international conventions on the production of illegal drugs.

Some states in the United States have legalised marijuana for both medicinal and recreational use.

The new problem however has been to meet the rapidly growing demand.

In July the governor of Nevada, a state in the US, declared a state of emergency over the impending medicinal marijuana.

There were reports in June that Canada and Germany were facing a shortage of medicinal marijuana.

This indicates that there is a strong demand for medicinal marijuana.

The biggest market remains in the largely illegal recreational use of the drug.

Nearly 70 percent of the marijuana sold in South Africa comes from Lesotho, according to a UN report.

In places like Thaba-Tseka and Mapoteng marijuana is grown almost like a cash crop.

Rarely do farmers get arrested for growing it.

And even if they are caught the penalties are not stringent enough to deter other farmers. The risk is therefore low and the profits huge.

By some estimates profits from a hectare of marijuana could be 20 times higher than those from a maize plot of the same size.

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