The small South African nation of Lesotho is set to become the first African country to legalise the production of cannabis – for medicinal use.
Already, a South African company Verve Dynamics has been given the go-ahead to grow and cultivate marijuana legally in Lesotho.
On its website Verve Dynamics is described as a vegan-friendly manufacturer of highly purified botanical extracts.
It will now be the first company in Africa to officially produce cannabis producer for medical purposes.
The company’s MD Richard Davies has called the move a historic decision, saying this will allow Lesotho to play a significant role in developing the industry.
According to the UN Development Programme, cannabis is Lesotho’s third largest source of foreign income. In 2015, the kingdom’s Green Party said local farmers were ditching traditional crops to cultivate dagga, as it is known there, as it rakes in higher profits on the black market.
Speaking to media in South Africa Mr Davies stated: “ We have been dealing with Afro-botanicals with a medicinal application for the last 15 years. Cannabis has been a product of interest to us for some time due to its medical potential. However, due to the illegality of it in South Africa we have not had access to it.”
Mr Davies was lucky that Lesotho granted him a license for medicinal marijuana although it is known that the use of the natural substance will not be legalised.
But Lesotho’s decision paves the way for future reforms in the country and around the continent where there has been a push to legalise the herb. According to Verve dynamics, Lesotho’s decision makes this country “a pioneer on the African continent”.
The deal between the Lesotho government and Verve Dynamics came after a long procedure that included visits by Lesotho officials and police to the premises of Verve Dynamics. The Lesotho authorities were very diligent and thorough in their approach. This license provided work opportunities for 40 Basotho farmers to legally grow and process cannabis which will later be turned into capsules and tinctures by the company.
Last year in Nairobi, Kenya, a man petitioned the Senate to legalise the smoking of bhang (Cannabis sativa). Gwada Ogot told the Senate’s Health committee that the banning of bhang in Kenya and most African states was based on ignorance and business conspiracies by leading American and European firms.
Mr Ogot, a Busia-based researcher, told the committee led by Migori Senator Wilfred Machage that the plant’s products had medicinal value and that the ban should also be lifted for commercial purposes. “Scientifically, it has been proved that bhang treats 677 medical conditions. Countries like Germany, Israel, Australia, Canada and the Netherlands recently legalised cannabis for medicinal use. Kenya must follow suit,” he said.
Dr Machage said the committee would consider the petition, noting that as a medical doctor, he was aware that some medicines could be extracted from the plant. “We cannot rule out the medicinal value of bhang; even snake poison has medicinal value,” said the senator who also disclosed that the committee would soon hold a conference of eminent persons, including psychiatrists, to deliberate over the issue.
Africa is not only one of the highest producers of cannabis, it also has one of the highest consumption rates. Production of cannabis on the continent differ from one country to another, some countries produce cannabis resin, others produce cannabis herb, Marijuana or hemp. If the illicit market of cannabis becomes legal, the continent will experience an economic boost because this plant has the potential to be a valuable export crop.