Cabinet on Monday endorsed a regulatory framework for mass growing of cannabis as police figures show several thousand people have been arrested for dealing and using the narcotic.
Details in the approved document are yet to be made public, but the new changes bring Rwanda into a very lucrative industry.
The new regulations cover all what are called “high value therapeutic crops”, which are essentially plants that are very expensive on the global market due to their medicinal value.
Earlier during the day, The Chronicles obtained and reported about a call for proposals from companies to grow cannabis on a mass scale in Rwanda. The document was prepared by the Rwanda Development Board.
Government has for years held a tough stance on cannabis, most of which comes from DR Congo and Tanzania. According to police figures, in 2014 alone, some 2,151 people were arrested amd charged – meaning at least 5 people were arrested every day.
The following year 2015, arrests dropped to at least 205, or one arrest every two days.
When it came to 2016, the arrests slightly rose again to 294 people. The following year 2017, the arrests shot over 1,000, as well as in 2018 – which is the final year for which official statistics have been released.
It is not clear at this point why there was such a big number of people charged for cannabis in 2014 compared other years.
Since last year, barely a day goes by without a report from police of someone arrested as they transported thousands of pellets of cannabis. In the past week, unconfirmed reports say a popular singer Bushali has been sent to the infamous Iwawa Rehabilitation Center on lake Kivu after he was found with cannabis. It will be his second arrest.
Following our report of cannabis mass growing in the works, there has since been massive reactions via social media, the now usual platform to gauge public engagement on any issue in the country.
The general sense in the population is that licencing the extensive production of cannabis for medicinal use should also come with its legalisation in the country.
On the regional and international scene, Rwanda is actually coming late. Cannabis is big business especially in Israel, UK, Canada and U.S.
Companies there are seeking huge supplies, for which they are willing to pay billions of dollars.
In Uganda, more than 100 companies have submitted applications for licences to grow cannabis. This last April, one company sold 250kg at $1,500 per Kilo to Israel which is seeking a huge supply.
The cannabis shortage in Israel compelled authorities in Tel Aviv to approach weed dealers in Uganda to fill the gap. Uganda is required to supply 2.5 tonnes of medical cannabis to Israel’s pharmaceutical industry.
As for Kenya, in March last year, the government was forced to vehemently deny it had granted an American company with land for a 25 year lease to grow cannabis. Nairobi dismissed the reports saying cultivation and use of cannabis remain illegal in the country.
Zambia announced in December last year that it targeted $30 billion in annual earnings from exporting cannabis. These earnings would supplement foreign exchange from copper which has plummeted leaving the country in a debt hole.
The business would be conducted by the military’s business arm.
The cannabis industry in Morocco is estimated at $10 billion and employs 800,000 people, according to the Morocco Network for Industrial and Medicinal Use of Cannabis.
The growth of cannabis has increased the Democratic Republic of Congo and Tanzania, where farmers see it as a more lucrative use of land. Industry estimates show that a 100-kilogramme sack of cannabis fetched between $96 and $128, more than two times the $54 price per sack of maize, according to The East African.
A research study in 2008 also showed that one acre of cannabis earned small-scale farmers in Tanzania $200 per acre, compared with between $20 and $30 per acre for maize, sugarcane and other food crops.