Idle licenses threaten local cannabis industry

‘MAPALO NKHELOANE

MASERU – The International Narcotics Control Board (INCB) has given cannabis license holders in Lesotho an ultimatum to utilise their licenses within this month or risk losing them.

Minister of Health Nkaku Kabi made the announcement, indicating that the ultimatum comes after the INCB expressed concern that only five license holders out of 145 issued were operating.

Kabi emphasised that the cannabis growers have just “framed their licences and are just happy that they own them” but they do not do the work on the ground.

He further revealed that the unfortunate part was that INCB made it clear if operations do not commence it will take away the licences of all growers, including the five already operating.

“I took a trip to Austria together with Sam Matekane and Andre Bothma of Medigrow who are among the five whose licences are operating but they were, however, sadly denied exporting permits the reason being their seriousness should be seen in doing what is expected of them or otherwise they lose their licences,” Kabi said.

The disadvantage, Kabi said, is that those growers have already invested millions so they stand to lose a lot all because others have been issued licences but are not using them.

This therefore, according to Kabi, compromises their businesses and the economy of the country as a whole.

Kabi said the issue of cannabis personally affects him because it is his responsibility. He noted Basotho saw the cannabis industry as an opportunity to venture into business and that some even went to the extend of selling their property so that they could penetrate the industry with the belief that greater rewards awaited them.

After all such investment, he noted, it would be sad if a year passes without having secured an investor partner and end up failing to even pay a renewal fee.

The licence costs M500 000.

“I was lenient on them in the beginning trying to meet them half-way by saying the industry should not only be for white people but for Basotho as well.

“Now when we have to take critical measures it is even more difficult because I become harsh on the very same person who sold his property in order to get a licence. Taking away his licence means selling property was a useless move now because such person would have lost everything,” the Minister said.

He added: ”I even wish I had not issued such a person a licence in the first place. At least that way the person would only be angry at me for not giving him a licence, unlike when he is angry for losing the licence as well as his property. Unfortunately, that is going to happen because INCB is expecting to see operations this month”.

Kabi also indicated that it is difficult to work with Basotho because they all come from different backgrounds.

There are those who are able to get reasonable loans from banks, then there are others who have family members that have the muscle to help financially and there are yet others who with a little push, might upgrade to the level required of the cannabis industry.

Kabi said this emphasising that it should not seem like the industry is for the rich only.

He said he tried his best to cater for other Basotho but unfortunately if they are failing he will be left with no option but to take away their licences.

Come November, he said, only growers determined to utilise their licences will remain in the industry.

He revealed he is going on a trip to Canada to meet potential investors so growers interested should tag along and hopefully they will meet investors.

Contacted for comment, Medigrow said the company is operating perfectly well without any interruptions.

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