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Cabinet still holding discussions on licensing marijuana, says minister

Ministers Dr. Ruth Aceng and Joyce Mokiru at a function in Omoro district. The minister has revealed that cabinet is discussing the side effects and benefits of medical marijuana as over 20 companies seek licences to commercially grow Marijuana. (FILE PHOTO)

KAMPALA -The Minister of Health, Dr Jane Ruth Aceng, has said Cabinet is still having discussions on harms and benefits of medical marijuana and called for patience from the 20 companies seeking licence to grow the banned substance in Uganda.

Speaking at the Uganda Media Centre in Kampala on Thursday, Dr Aceng explained the regulation process is slow and laborious.

“Whereas growing cannabis for medicinal use would not be a problem, the problem is the regulation. Regulation of such medicines, which also present a danger to our society, is extremely expensive,” she said.

“We just took a study of one state in the US where they use more than $35b [about Shs132 trillion] in regulation alone. And we are asking ourselves; ‘Is Uganda ready to grow this and regulate it?’ Because cannabis in itself, even plucking off the leaves and chewing will get you intoxicated; even the stems even the seeds,” the minister said.

Over 20 firms seeking licences to grow marijuana accuse Dr Aceng, who is mandated by the Narcotic Drugs and Psychotropic Substances Act 2015 to allow cultivation, production and exportation of medical marijuana, of frustrating their applications.

But the minister said the decision lies on Cabinet.

“Let me state here very clearly that government has not concluded discussions on cannabis and government has not resolved that we should give authorisation for growing of cannabis for medical use in Uganda….The discussion is still ongoing and until Cabinet resolves, we cannot take any further step,” Dr Aceng explained.

Those backing medical marijuana say its chemicals are used to treat a number of different health conditions, including appetite loss, cancer, inflammatory bowel disease and eating disorders such as anorexia, epilepsy and glaucoma.

Last week, a five-member Cabinet committee met y to discuss the dangers and benefits of medical marijuana.

The committee chaired by the Prime Minister, Dr Ruhakana Rugunda, also includes Dr. Aceng, Trade and Industry Minister Amelia Kyambadde, Matia Kasaija of Finance, Agriculture’s Vincent Ssempijja, and Internal Affairs minister Gen. Jeje Odongo. With Cabinet approval, Uganda is set to export medical marijuana products to Europe and other countries in the west.

According to WebMD, a global website that provides health information, the greatest amount of evidence for the therapeutic effects of cannabis relate to its ability to reduce chronic pain, nausea and vomiting due to chemotherapy and spasticity (tight or stiff muscles).

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