Cannabis licensing regains spotlight

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. . . as Lesotho prepares to celebrate 420 expo

MOSA MAOENG

MASERU – Licensing marijuana in Lesotho is a significant concern for Basotho, who aspire to cultivate the product within the country for medicinal purposes. Despite the legalisation of medical cannabis in 2017, with Lesotho being the first African nation to do so, the majority of sales generated by companies are directed offshore.

The regulatory framework governing medical cannabis in Lesotho is established by the Drugs of Abuse Act of 2008, along with its accompanying regulations such as the Drugs of Abuse (Cannabis) Regulations of 2018. The co-director of Basotho Medical Herbs, Matla-a-Morena Lethunya emphasised these points in a recent interview.

He said various licenses, including those for cultivation, manufacturing and export, are governed by this legislation. However, there exists a significant gap in enabling local consumers to access medical cannabis legally, with the bulk of sales predominantly catering to international markets.

Lethunya underscored their commitment to bridging this disparity, striving to ensure that every Mosotho has access to a diverse range of medicines, including medical cannabis. “Basotho Medical Herbs (BMH) Pty Ltd. is a duly incorporated private company in Lesotho, licensed to fully engage in the cultivation and processing of marijuana and other medicinal plants not prohibited by the Drugs of Abuse Act 2008.”

He added: “Our team at BMH comprises leading experts who oversee operations at our Medical Cannabis Research and Development Centre. Our product line encompasses a wide range, from soaps and creams to cannabidiol (CBD) or tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) drops. The initial licensing cost, which began at M550,000, has since increased.

“Our primary aim is to address the disparity in marijuana licensing to facilitate the smooth operation of businesses within the industry.” With its headquarters in Leribe, BMH is actively engaged in extensive marijuana research with a team of eight dedicated research and development professionals. Lethunya said: “We are currently in discussions with several higher education institutions to establish collaborative efforts aimed at implementing a comprehensive academic research agenda and curriculum for medical cannabis.

“This initiative seeks to bolster our vision and address the crucial need within the Lesotho cannabis sector for skilled and trained personnel. Through strategic partnerships with local higher education institutions, BMH endeavours to cultivate a workforce capable of meeting both current and future demands of the cannabis industry.”

He further elaborated on the differentiation within the cannabis spectrum, highlighting two main categories: cannabis containing THC +0.02% (commonly known as marijuana, with psychoactive properties) and cannabis with CBD-dominant THC of less than -0.02% (such as hemp, devoid of psychoactive effects).

Both types serve various medical purposes, with extracts from cannabidiol being particularly effective in treating certain forms of severe epilepsy. Lethunya noted that other extracts, such as dronabinol, are utilised to alleviate nausea and vomiting induced by chemotherapy in cancer treatment, as well as to address anorexia associated with weight loss in individuals with AIDS.

Additionally, hemp finds widespread application in the production of various commercial and industrial goods, including rope, textiles, clothing, shoes, food, paper, bioplastics, and insulation. Furthermore, it has been utilised to alleviate constipation, high cholesterol, eczema, arthritis, and numerous other conditions.

In alignment with these principles, Basotho Medical Herbs is poised to host the Lesotho 420 Cannabis Expo Festival on April 20. Globally, April 20, commonly known as “420” is celebrated annually. Lethunya explained that the expo aims to sensitise Basotho about the significance and opportunities within the marijuana industry. He said policymakers, healthcare professionals, parents, and representatives from companies involved in marijuana operations are encouraged to attend.

Lethunya emphasised their commitment to hosting the expo annually as a means of education and bridging the gap in licensing. During a recent media press conference held last Friday, Advocate Motseki Letsota highlighted the inclusion of a business seminar aimed at educating parents, government officials, and the general public about the importance of marijuana. Letsota noted that business owners already involved in the marijuana sector would also share their experiences, challenges, and outcomes during the seminar.

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