Groups Condemn Conviction of Journalists in Nigeria Over Report on Pot Use at Politicians Factory

Two organizations condemned the convictions of two journalists in Nigeria who were arrested in 2019 after they exposed pot smoking at a business associated with a high-ranking politician. While Nigeria is the world’s third-highest consumer of cannabis, according to the New Zealand Ministry of Health, the plant is illegal in the country. Some view it as a double standard for officials and commoners.

The Eagle reports that the Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) and Civil Society Legislative Advocacy Centre (CISLAC) condemned the conviction of two young Nigerian journalists, Gidado Yushau and Alfred Olufemi over an investigative report. CPJ, an independent, nonprofit organization that promotes press freedom worldwide, described the conviction as “a chilling message to the Nigerian press.” The Eagle called it an “inglorious attempt to muzzle the press and investigative journalism in Nigeria.”

Yushau serves as editor of The News Digest and is Convener of the annual Campus Journalism Awards (CJA), while Olufemi is a freelance journalist with bylines in Premium Times and Punch, two Africa-based newspapers. It’s not the publications’ first dance with danger: Premium Times, for instance, exposed crimes such as those targeting women and civilians allegedly committed by Boko Haram.

Both journalists were arrested and charged in court in 2019 after they wrote an investigative report exposing the prevalence of pot smoking by staff, a Kwara, Nigeria-based rice factory, which is associated with Hillcrest Agro-Allied Industries. Why is that significant? Hillcrest Agro-Allied Industries is linked to a high-ranking official: Presidential Economic Adviser Sarah Aladea, who formerly served as Deputy Governor of the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN).

Organization leaders worry that the arrests have a political motivation. On Feb. 7, Adams Salihu Mohammed, a magistrate in Ilorin, Nigeria, ordered the journalists to be held for five months in jail or pay a steep fine of N100,000—each—for the alleged crimes of “defamation and conspiracy.” They ended up paying the fines to avoid jail during the trial.

A Chilling Message to Journalists in Nigeria

Unfortunately, it doesn’t appear that the journalists will be provided with a fair trial according to their legal counsel.

“There was evidence before the trial court that the police report which purportedly indicted our clients came into existence even before they were invited by the police,” Barrister Ahmed Ibraheem Gambari, an attorney representing one of the journalists, said after they were convicted. In other words, the police deemed them guilty of the “crime” long before they were allowed to share their own side of the story. The journalists’ claims were backed by former employees of the rice factory, who said that it’s common to smoke pot during work.

“Also, an ex-employee of the company testified before the court that he was not only a witness to how smoking of Indian hemp pervaded the site but equally, it was the persistent smoking of the Indian hemp that informed his decision to sever his employment with the company,” Gambari said. “What’s more, in order to establish the verisimilitude of his assertion, the same witness tendered his bank statement evidencing the receipt of his monthly salaries from the company during the period when smoking was prevalent. It, therefore, remains a conundrum of how the court found them guilty in the face of this empirical evidence among others.”

CPJ’s Africa program coordinator based in New York, Angela Quintal, said that the two should never have been charged, let alone convicted. “The telecom surveillance used to bring the journalists into custody, followed by a more than three-year-long trial, demonstrates the lengths Nigerian authorities will go to arrest and prosecute the press,” Quintal said.

International human rights courts and UN organizations have repeatedly denounced the use of criminal sanctions for “defamation.”

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Morocco Begins Construction on First Legal Cannabis Lab

Morocco made history this week, as it broke ground on what will be the North African country’s first lab for medical and industrial cannabis. 

According to Morocco World News, “Bio Cannat, the first Moroccan cooperative authorized to market and export cannabis and its products for industrial and medical use, launched last week the construction work for its first laboratory.”

The outlet has more details on the historic construction project:

“In a statement on Sunday, the cooperation stressed that it had obtained authorization as part of the ten permits delivered by the National Agency for Activities Related to Cannabis in October 2022. The lab, which is now being built in the Chefchaouen region, is considered the first unit at the national. The cannabis produced by the lab will be used in many industries, including food, industrial, medical, and paramedical sectors.”

Morocco has long been known as the largest cannabis producer in the world –– a distinction that was confirmed last year by the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime.

But it was not until 2021 that the Moroccan government brought its official policy in line with that output. 

That year, the country adopted a “law authorizing the therapeutic use of cannabis, a major reform for this North African country considered as one of the first producers of hashish in the world,” according to Africa News

“The legal use implies means (sic) it can only be used in medicine, cosmetics and even for industrial purposes,” the outlet explained at the time. “The law was adopted by the House of Representatives with 119 votes in support and 48 against. Recreational use remains prohibited and subject to prosecution.”

Last fall, Morocco’s National Agency for the Regulation of Cannabis Activities (ANRAC), an agency that was created to oversee the newly established legal cannabis industry, issued the first 10 cannabis cultivation and production permits.

The permits enable farmers to grow and process cannabis through a constellation of agricultural collectives that will be under strict government supervision and regulation. ANRAC also gave the go-ahead for certain companies to market and export marijuana.  

Bio Cannat was a recipient of one of those 10 permits. The coop said in a statement that the new lab will include “agricultural experiments with some of the farmers in the Chefchaouen region, who are involved in agricultural cooperatives to provide the raw material after providing the seeds intended for this purpose,” as quoted by Morocco World News.

Moroccan authorities continue to crack down on illicit cannabis cultivation and trafficking. 

In December, the country’s General Directorate of National Security announced a major drug bust, saying that law enforcement officials had confiscated more than two tons of cannabis.

The agency explained that a “joint security operation between the judicial police and the interests of the General Directorate of National Territorial Surveillance … resulted in the abortion of an attempt to smuggle international goods of two tons and 120 kilograms of shira, and the seizure of an inflatable boat and equipment used in maritime navigation.”

The Morocco World News reported last year that law enforcement there has “been intensifying its efforts against drug trafficking.”

“Last year, Moroccan police handled 82,950 cases related to the possession and trafficking of drugs. Security services sent 103,589 people to court, including 261 foreigners,” the outlet reported at the time. “During the same year, police seized 191 tonnes and 158 kilograms of cannabis, which is one of the most common drugs in Morocco. The amount of cannabis seized in 2021, represents a decrease of 12% compared to 2020.”

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Zimbabwe Increases Hemp THC Limit to 1%

Zimbabwe increased the THC limit for industrial hemp from 0.3% to 1%, making significant changes for the African country’s hemp industry.

In 2018, Zimbabwe became the second nation in Africa to legalize medical cannabis and cannabis production for medical and scientific purposes.

Zimbabwe Independent reports that the THC level increase makes significant changes for CBD manufacturers, who will now be able to produce the entourage effect combined with other cannabinoids. 

The amended bill, called the Criminal Law (Codification and Reform) Amendment Bill, 2002 is proposing the amendment of section 155 of the Criminal Law (Codification and Reform) Act [Chapter 9:23] (hereinafter referred to as “the Act”) to remove industrial hemp from the list of dangerous drugs.

“By the insertion of the following definition,” the bill reads, “‘Industrial hemp’ means the plant cannabis sativa L and any part of that plant, including the seed thereof and all derivatives, extracts, cannabinoids, isomers, acids, salts and salts of isomers, whether growing or not with a delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol concentration of not more than one per centum on a dry weight basis.”

Zimbabwe, like many other countries, is technically in conflict with the United Nations international drug convention, which still dictates global drugs policy over the past 60 years.

However, by amending the legislation and providing clarified definitions as outlined in the Amendment Bill 2022, Zimbabwe is establishing an environment in which a wider range of line mixes and ultimately hemp varieties may be produced and supplied.

An increased THC level gives industrial hemp farmers a bigger trove of options, allowing them to select genetics worthy for the production of a broader range of markets.

This is particularly important, Zimbabwe Independent notes, because studies have shown that certain genetics that combine CBD and THC produce better fiber qualities and also an entourage effect with synergistic therapeutic benefits.

As new CBD products are currently being tested by the Medicines Control Authority of Zimbabwe, they may be more effective and therefore more appealing to consumers.

The Tobacco Research Board (TRB) was directed to “reform and restructure by 2025,” making itself a center for national research, development, and innovation in tobacco and alternatives.

The country developed an objective to advance agricultural profitability and development in Zimbabwe. Industrial hemp was among the crops of interest. TRB has been testing and developing hemp varieties that are acclimated to Zimbabwe’s climatic conditions over the last few years.

The 0.3% THC requirement is an arbitrary quantity—mirroring THC limits in the U.S.—that makes it difficult for breeders to create and grow varieties with other desirable synergistic properties.

Five Years into Medical Cannabis in Zimbabwe

Zimbabwe legalized medical cannabis in 2018, making it among the first countries in Africa to do so.

In 2019, Zimbabwe abolished its ban on cannabis cultivation, which set the stage for the country’s farmers to begin cultivating industrial hemp to export. That same year, the country issued the first license to a medical cannabis company to begin cultivation.

In May 2022, Zimbabwean President Emmerson Mnangagwa commissioned a $27 million medical cannabis farm and processing plant to be run by Swiss Bioceuticals Limited in West Province, Zimbabwe.

“This milestone is a testimony of the successes of my Government’s Engagement and Re-engagement Policy. It further demonstrates the confidence that Swiss companies have in our economy through their continued investment in Zimbabwe. I extend my profound congratulations to the Swiss Bioceuticals Limited for this timely investment in the medicinal cannabis farm, processing plant and value chain, worth US$27 million,” Mnangagwa said in the announcement of the plant.

The Medicines Control Authority of Zimbabwe said on July 26, 2022 that it would begin accepting applicants from cannabis and hemp producers, manufacturers, importers, exporters, and retail pharmacists, in a seismic shift away from tobacco.

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From the Archives: The Ibogaine Factor (1995)

By Paul Derienzo

Top-level federal researchers and bureaucrats, as well as grass-roots activists in drug-ravaged urban communities, have discovered ibogaine, the controversial drug that advocates tout as an “addiction interrupter” and one scientist calls a “probe into the inner workings of the human brain.”

Derived from iboga, an hallucinogenic plant of the West African rainforests, ibogaine is illegal in the USA. But addicts have been successfully treated with the drug in programs run overseas by private outfits, which are now pressuring the federal government to legalize the treatment.

The ibogaine controversy was aired at a March 8 conference in the Washington suburbs called by the National Institute on Drug Abuse. Amidst heated debate between pro and anti-ibogaine factions, Frank Vocci, deputy director of NIDA’s Medications Development Division, expressed misgivings over human ibogaine testing conducted in Europe, Israel and Panama, and the reliance on “anecdotal evidence” of its efficacy in interrupting heroin and cocaine withdrawal symptoms. He concluded, however, that ibogaine research is “here to stay.”

Dr. Carlo Contoreggi of NIDA’s Division of Intramural Research said “even if ibogaine is slowed down, it’s too late to stop it. They know it works. NIDA views it as a fascinating window into the human brain, a probe to the farthest reaches of addictive behavior.”

Howard Lotsof, who heads NDA International, the company that holds the ibogaine-therapy patents, summarized the 60 treatments his group has performed, mostly in Holland. Lotsof characterized the drug’s effectiveness as “15 percent success, 15 percent failure, with the length of interruption in everyone else falling somewhere in between on a bell curve.”

Among the strongest ibogaine advocates at the conference was Dr. Deborah Mash of the University of Miami Medicine School’s Neurology Department, who is conducting the first FDA-sanctioned human testing (“FDA Approves Ibogaine Research on Humans,” Jan. ’94 HT). Mash has identified an ibogaine metabolite, 12-hydroxy-ibogamine, which is active at opiate receptor sites in the cerebellum.

According to one high-level NIDA official, her discovery is among the most significant in the study of addiction.

But drug-research consultant Dr. Peter Hoyle, who was involved in the controversial approval of the AIDS drug AZT, is an adamant ibogaine critic. He said he doesn’t think enough preclinical work has been done to support human trials. He said the mechanism of ibogaine’s action is still unclear, and raised the specter of ibogaine toxicity, based on massive overdosing of laboratory dogs and rats.

Others countered that despite the high doses—far greater than the doses used on humans—only one of the laboratory animals died. Dr. Mark Molliver of Johns Hopkins University, who first published results showing brain damage in rats given massive doses of ibogaine, said studies in monkeys showed only minor evidence of cell damage.

Mash dismissed reports of cell damage. Her own primate studies show absolutely no cell damage. In the conference’s most dramatic moment, she presented an actual human brain, of a heroin addict who died a month after she had received an ibogaine treatment in Panama. The patient died in Miami, where she had gone for a medical exam after experiencing vomiting and diarrhea. The local medical examiner who did the autopsy was an associate of Mash. According to the autopsy report, the brain showed no damage to the cerebellum area where ibogaine is active.

One source close to federal researchers says there are powerful forces arrayed against ibogaine inside the drug-policy bureaucracy. These forces are said to be centered around the methadone establishment.

Methadone is a heroin substitute invented in 1930s Germany and initially called Dolophine after Nazi leader Adolf Hitler. Government-funded clinics coast-to-coast dispense it to addicts in “maintenance” programs aimed at controlling addiction. According to the source, there are some scientists who have built their careers on methadone research and are fighting tooth-and-nail against ibogaine. A “methadone mafia” is said to be entrenched in the drug policy bureaucracy.

On March 4, mere days before the Washington conference, 400 people jammed a forum on ibogaine in New York City’s African American community of Harlem. The forum, jointly organized by the Black Coalition on Drugs and the African Descendants Awareness Movement, was held at a community center near the mosque where Malcolm X was once minister. Among the scheduled speakers were two former Black Panther political prisoners.

After 19 years in prison, Dhoruba bin Wahad was recently cleared of charges linking him to the shooting of two police officers in 1971. Dhoruba had been raiding South Bronx drug locations that operated with the connivance of corrupt officers and then publicly dumping the drugs into sewers.

Dhoruba couldn’t make the forum because of a delay in his flight from Ghana, but speaking in his place was Eddie Ellis, also a former Panther and a veteran of 25 years incarceration.

Through a letter from Dhoruba, the Black Coalition on Drugs voiced full support of ibogaine, stating that the drug should be made available to the estimated 800,000 heroin and cocaine addicts in the USA. Rommel Washington, a Harlem Hospital social worker who has observed several ibogaine treatments, led the audience in chanting “Ibogaine is life!”

Questions about ibogaine’s pharmacological properties were fielded by Dr. John Morgan of City College of New York, who recounted reports from nearly 80 addicts who have received ibogaine treatments in Holland, Panama and other countries. He says it has been shown to alleviate morphine withdrawal in preclinical tests and anecdotal evidence. But the doctor also cautioned the gathering that some scientists were actively trying to halt human ibogaine testing.

Howard Lotsof called on the forum participants to increase the pressure on NIDA and local elected officials such as Rep. Charles Rangel, a hard-line Drug Warrior who once chaired a congressional subcommittee on narcotics.

Natural-healing advocate John Harris, who appears regularly on local radio, spoke on iboga’s historic use in African rite-of-passage ceremonies. Drawing a parallel, he advocated involvement of the addict’s family and friends in ibogaine treatment.

Longtime organizer Dana Beal, veteran Yippie and fixture on the marijuana-activist scene, spoke in support of a “harm reduction” approach combining ibogaine with medical marijuana and long-term counseling as a holistic anti-addiction strategy. Beal says ibogaine is best understood through study of West Africa’s Bwiti spiritual tradition, in which practitioners under the influence of iboga are said to meet with their ancestors in a life-transforming experience.

Despite the hope many participants held for ibogaine, the impassioned question-and-answer session indicated that many saw a contradiction between the white medical establishment’s control of drug policy and an African-American community determined to explore an addiction treatment derived from an African rainforest plant.

Organizer Brother Shine asked rhetorically if black Americans can depend on the medical establishment to treat ibogaine research fairly—and answered his own question by urging grass-roots involvement to ensure that the drug ultimately comes under the control of the local communities hardest hit by addiction. 

High Times Magazine, August 1995

Read the full issue here.

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Nigerian Customs Authorities Seize Nearly 600 Pounds of Weed

Customs authorities in Nigeria announced this week that a patrol had intercepted nearly 600 pounds of cannabis along a busy highway in the central part of the West African nation. Niger/Kogi Comptroller Busayo Kadejo said on Tuesday that 317 packages totaling 263.6 kilograms (more than 581 pounds) of illicit marijuana had been seized by the Nigerian Customs Service (NCS). 

Following the seizure, the cannabis was handed over to Barrister Haruna Kwetishe, the Niger State Commander of the National Drug Law Enforcement Agency (NDLEA), in Minna, the capital of Niger state. 

The cannabis was discovered by an Area Command of the Customs Service patrol along the busy highway between the cities of Lokoja and Abuja in the central region of Nigeria. Kadejo noted that the suspected cannabis smugglers had fled after abandoning the truck carrying the marijuana and were still at large.

Cannabis is illegal in Nigeria, with penalties for possession of marijuana ranging from 12 years behind bars to life in prison for large-scale trafficking. Despite the risk, however, cannabis is one of the most popular illicit drugs in the country, and Nigeria is one of the largest West African producers of illicit marijuana.

Following the discovery, Kadejo commended the work of the customs officers that resulted in the seizure of the cannabis. But he also noted that illicit drugs have become deeply ingrained in Nigerian society.

“This occasion has come with a dual feeling and sadness and joy in my heart. First and foremost is the fact that some people are working tirelessly to build this nation while others are engaged in acts that are inimical to the development of the same country,” said Kadejo. “I am glad that due to the diligent application of self to duty, our officials were able to intercept these illicit packages. If the packages had escaped our eyes, they would have helped in the execution and sustenance of crimes such as banditry, kidnapping, thuggery and other social services.”

Suspected Smugglers On The Run

Noting that the suspected cannabis smugglers had escaped and fled into the bush after their truck was stopped by customs officers, Kadejo warned area residents to be alert for their presence. He also said that the NCS is determined to put cannabis smugglers in the country out of business.

“I strongly feel it is important that as the general elections are drawing closer, it is the responsibility of all and sundry to be at alert and report suspicious activities to law enforcement agencies,” Kadejo said. 

The local comptroller noted that he had received the approval of the Comptroller General of the Customs to transfer the seized cannabis to the Niger state command of the NDLEA, adding that “this shows the synergy that exists between the Nigeria Customs Service and the NDLEA.”

After accepting the seized cannabis, Kwetishe commended the customs service and said that the marijuana would be destroyed so it would not make its way to the illicit market.

“What the Customs has done is a clear case of synergy between the security agencies. It is a great job that the Customs have done,” said Kwetishe. “It has reassured us that Nigeria as a country is a project for everybody not necessarily for the security agencies. Anyone with information should call our attention to it and it will save lives.”

The NDLEA state commander also noted that any politicians using cannabis as an incentive to gain the support of young people in upcoming elections would be jailed until after ballots are cast.

“We assure the society that we will make Nigeria safe. Particularly in this period where drugs are used to ginger thuggery. I want to warn politicians that anybody in Niger state that wants to use drugs in this political era, NDLEA is able and ready to reign you in,” Kwetishe warned. “We will arrest you. You may not even see the elections. We will keep you till after the elections.” 

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Authorities Seize More Than 2 Tons of Cannabis in Morocco

Law enforcement officials in Morocco completed a massive drug bust this week in the southern part of the country. 

The Moroccan General Directorate of National Security said on Tuesday “that police dismantled an international drug trafficking network,” as reported by Morocco World News, which noted that the raid resulted in the arrest of “five suspects aged between 24 and 44 for their alleged involvement in the network.”

The General Directorate of National Security, or DGSN, which serves as Morocco’s national police force, provided details of the operation on Twitter, where it said that a “joint security operation between the judicial police and the interests of the General Directorate of National Territorial Surveillance … resulted in the abortion of an attempt to smuggle international goods of two tons and 120 kilograms of shira, and the seizure of an inflatable boat and equipment used in maritime navigation.” 

According to Morocco World News, the country “has been intensifying its efforts against drug trafficking.”

“Last year, Moroccan police handled 82,950 cases related to the possession and trafficking of drugs. Security services sent 103,589 people to court, including 261 foreigners,” the outlet reported. “During the same year, police seized 191 tonnes and 158 kilograms of cannabis, which is one of the most common drugs in Morocco. The amount of cannabis seized in 2021, represents a decrease of 12% compared to 2020.”

The stepped-up level of enforcement comes at a time of significant change to Morocco’s laws governing cannabis. Long regarded as one of the world’s leading producers of cannabis, Moroccan lawmakers last year passed a law “authorizing the therapeutic use of cannabis, a major reform for this North African country considered to be one of the leading producers of hashish in the world,” Agence France-Presse reported at the time.

“The objective of the bill… is to ‘reconvert illicit crops that destroy the environment into legal activities that are sustainable and generate value and employment,’” Agence France-Presse explained. “The deputies of the Justice and Development Party (PJD), at the head of the government coalition, were the only ones to vote against the text presented by the executive, denouncing ‘hastiness and risk of exploitation during the electoral campaigns’ for the regional ones in September and the legislative ones at the beginning of October.”

In October, the country issued the first round of cannabis cultivation permits. The newly formed National Agency for the Regulation of Cannabis Activities (ANRAC), which is acting as the chief regulator of the Moroccan cannabis industry, issued 10 permits for both production and cultivation. 

Morocco World News reported at the time that, following the first licenses, “ANRAC will begin authorizing farmers to legally cultivate and produce cannabis within a tightly regulated framework of agricultural cooperatives.”

“This procedure will take place at the provincial level in the provinces of Al Hoceima, Chefchaouen, and Taounate, in accordance with the expressed needs of the industry,” the outlet reported. “ANRAC is still investigating the market’s prospects in order to produce sector-wide growth and make the conversion of farmers from illegal to legal activities easier, the statement concluded.”

The outlet provided more background on the policy change

“Over the past years, Morocco has shifted its approach towards putting in place a legal framework to allow legal cannabis production while fighting illicit cultivation and commercialization of the popular product. In June this year, Interior Minister Abdelouafi Laftit participated in the first meeting of ANRAC. The meeting’s goal was to discuss the final stages of the implementation of Law 13-21, which details the authorized uses of cannabis. The meeting also authorized the agency’s initial steps, which included the establishment of the first cooperatives for the production of local medicinal cannabis. Morocco’s regulation 13-21 hopes to ensure that farmers switch to legal cannabis cultivation in order to increase their revenue and improve labor conditions, but does little to capitalize on Morocco’s massive illicit cannabis production which supplies 70% of Europe’s cannabis needs.”

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Morocco Issues First Cannabis Production Permits

The northern African nation of Morocco formally launched its legal cannabis industry this week with the issuance of the country’s first 10 permits to produce cannabis. The Moroccan government legalized the regulated production and commercialization of cannabis for medicinal and industrial purposes in March of last year, giving its limited stamp of approval to an industry that has thrived in the country for hundreds of years.

Under the law, farmers in Morocco’s northern mountainous areas who organize into collectives will gradually be permitted to cultivate cannabis to fill the needs of the legal market. Abdeluafi Laftit, the Interior Minister of the Alaouite kingdom, Morocco’s reigning monarchy, said the legalization of cannabis is part of the government’s plan to create new “development opportunities,” according to a report from regional media.

On Tuesday, the National Agency for the Regulation of Cannabis Activities (ANRAC), the agency formed to regulate the newly legal industry, issued the first 10 permits for cannabis cultivation and production. The agency also granted permission for authorized companies to market and export cannabis and cannabis derivatives for pharmaceutical, medical, and industrial purposes. According to a statement issued by ANRAC, the move is part of the implementation of last year’s Law 13-21 on the legal uses of cannabis.

Under the plan, ANRAC will authorize farmers to cultivate and process cannabis through a network of closely regulated agricultural collectives. The authorizations will be issued at the provincial level in the provinces of Al Hoceima, Chefchaouen, and Taounate, in a gradual fashion as the needs of the legal market for cannabis dictate. ANRAC noted that it is still studying the prospects of the legal cannabis market in order to foster growth throughout the sector and make the transition to the regulated market easier for farmers who have been producing hashish for Europe’s illicit market for generations.

Will Traditional Farmers in Morocco See the Benefits?

But farmers in Morocco’s Rif Mountains, where large-scale production of hashish has occurred since at least the 18th century, fear the government’s crackdown on unlicensed production and the slow pace of issuing permits will result in missed opportunities. Historically, the region has supplied about 70% of the hashish in Europe’s illicit market. But legalization efforts and domestic production on the European continent are likely to cut into that market significantly.

Souad, a cannabis farmer in the village of Azila, said that Morocco’s cannabis farmers are uncertain about their future and believe that the government’s plan to legalize cannabis has not yet delivered any benefits.

“We’re still attached to this plant, but it has stopped giving us anything,” Souad told WION news.

“Nobody wants it anymore,” she added. “Our lives are hard now.”

Although she is in her 60s, Souad still cultivates cannabis with her sons. She hopes that legalization will help bring prosperity to her family and the marginalized Rif Mountains region, but she is unsure of the prospects for success.

“If it’s serious, it’s a good thing,” said Souad.

As cannabis reform efforts in Europe take hold, the market for Moroccan hashish has dropped significantly. Income from cannabis for farmers in Morocco fell from 500 million euros (about $490 million) a year in the early part of the 21st century to less than 325 million euros (about $319 million) in 2020, according to a 2021 interior ministry study.

“The market has fallen drastically,” said Karim, another grower in Azila.

This year Karim faced additional challenges caused by the worst drought the region has seen in decades. Because of the water shortages, he was only able to farm a portion of his family’s land this year. Farmers are also seeing increased efforts by the government to stem illicit production as they begin to regulate Morocco’s cannabis market.

“Farmers are the weak link in the supply chain—we’re the ones who pay the price,” Karim complained.

“The only option we have left is prison,” he added.

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Snake Venom and Cannabis: Kenya’s Economic Salvation?

George Wajackoyah, one of four Kenyan presidential candidates in the pending national elections, is proposing to legalize cannabis and raise snakes for their venom to jump start the domestic economy.

Beyond the cannabis play, snake venom is used to manufacture drugs like high blood pressure medication and is used in treatments for blood clots, heart disease and as an antidote for snake bites. On the foreign export market, venom can be sold for as much as $120 per gram. The market for this product is also growing—and expected to reach $1.5 billion by 2027.

Wajackoya is a lawyer and a member of the Roots Party which is also advocating for a four day work week. However, it is his esoteric proposals on the cannabis and venom front which is allowing him to make at least a decent showing if not capture votes that might otherwise go to the leading two candidates—a former Prime Minister and the current Deputy President. The cannabis theme alone is pulling undecided voters to his camp. Some expect him to do well enough to force a runoff.

In the meantime, the entire election is getting even more controversial with the barring of Reuben Kigame, a well-known blind gospel singer, from being a candidate at all. Beyond the presidential race, six of the top candidates vying for governorship positions are now facing unwanted scrutiny for allegedly submitting fake academic credentials to the Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission.

Cannabis reform, in other words, is far from the most controversial topic in Kenyan national politics this year even though it is one of the most internationally newsworthy ones.

The Impact of Cannabis Cultivation in Kenya

Kenya, a country in East Africa bordering Uganda (now exporting high THC cannabis to Israel and Europe), is holding its presidential elections this August. There are several other proposals on the table to help the average citizen, including a $60 a month stipend for Kenyans who are unemployed.

It is primarily known for its Big Five wildlife population, annual wildebeest migrations and Mount Kilimanjaro.

Tragically the country is also known for other reasons that are not so breath-taking. The country is considered a lower-middle income economy with about 16% of its population at or below the international poverty line. Beyond this, it suffers from extreme gender and other economic inequality, government corruption and severe illnesses that affect large parts of the population such as HIV, malaria, and pneumonia. Beyond this, the country suffers from a terrible lack of basic infrastructure that leaves about 19 million people (about 35% of the population) without access to clean drinking water.

Kenya is also suffering from direct fallout of the Ukraine War. The conflict has disrupted the supply of wheat, maize, fertilizer, and oil seeds to the country. Wheat prices alone have more than doubled. This may be the reason that as of early this month, the country became one of the top three countries in Africa to receive money from expats working abroad (used to pay for education as well as basic medical and household expenses).

The Worth of African Hemp

While presidential promises are often not all they are cracked up to be post-election day no matter where such contests are held, this may be especially true in Kenya. Here is why. According to U.S. federal data from the USDA, hemp prices can vary dramatically from state to state even in the U.S. For example, in Colorado, hemp sold for $4.09 a pound last year. In contrast, it went for $503 a pound in Massachusetts. That delta is for a product that has now been made legal on a national level.

International sales are equally divergent in price. High quality, indoor grown GMP hemp is a far different beast than hemp grown outdoors. Beyond this, the plants must test clean of heavy metals and pesticides—and below national and regional import countries mandates on THC percentage (between 0.02% and 0.03%).

Bottom line? Snake venom farming may prove to be more lucrative on the international market for the struggling Kenyan economy. But it is clear that cannabis reform is a global topic this year—and likely to show up in elections far from Africa.

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Morocco’s Cannabis Agency Meets for First Time

One of the most interesting things about watching the German transition to medical cannabis reform was the speed at which the internal controls were launched once the political decision to proceed was made. This included the creation of a cannabis agency—even if it was a subdivision of BfArM—the German federal agency in charge of medicines and medical devices. This was set up almost simultaneously as the final vote authorizing legalization happened in the Bundestag in March 2017. Morocco is clearly following a similar path.

Last May, the Parliament voted to make at least medical cannabis legal and try to capitalize on the foreign income that could be earned in Europe from exports. This March the government formalized that decision.

Now the government has formally launched the agency rather than just approving its existence on paper. The group met for an inaugural kick-off last week. The topics on the agenda were approvals of the organization chart and this year’s budget.

The agency will control all stages of the production chain—from cultivation and certification to marketing. It will also have to set up processing and manufacturing cooperatives—exclusively comprised of local growers.

The Impact of Cannabis in Morocco

Morocco will be entering a global legal industry that is estimated by multiple sources to grow over 20% this year. Yet while the formal guidelines and controls are new, cannabis cultivation is nothing new to this part of the world.

What will be interesting to watch is the impact of Moroccan sourced medical grade in Europe. Not to mention where it ends up.

Here is why.

Formal, E.U. GMP certified cannabis has to meet specific pharmaceutical spec before it can be classified as a “medicine.” This starts with indoor cultivation. Yet it is precisely this standard which will be so hard for most cultivators in Morocco to actually meet.

Does this mean that the Moroccan experiment is doomed before it starts? Not necessarily.

The idea behind the legislation is to deter illegal cultivation in the Rif Mountains and set up legal channels to create not only jobs but valuable foreign income from exports. Yet few farmers can afford to build the infrastructure needed for the same—and foreign investors are hard to come by. This is a similar problem that faces the rest of the developing world as countries examine whether the industry will be a boon or a curse.

This also means, by definition, that as a result, most of the crop coming out of Morocco, even “legally” is highly likely not to make the strict European medical grade.

What gives? Is this an economic development project doomed to fail?

There are several answers to this question, most of which are very positive.

The first is that while Moroccan medical cannabis flower may not be authorized to enter the German market directly as a pharmaceutical, the path to this as well as other E.U. markets (including Eastern Europe) may look similar to medical cannabis already being sourced from other parts of the world, starting with Latin America. This includes being recertified in a third European country, like Portugal (and for a price) before it is allowed to cross any more E.U. borders, including Germany’s.

While this is a highly controversial practice, don’t expect it to disappear any time soon, particularly given the transition to recreational now in the offing aus Deutschland.

Beyond this, there are also countries in Eastern Europe, starting with the Czech Republic, which are not so rigorous in their import requirements for “medical” cannabis.

Then there is the extract market. It is going to be challenging for the entire industry to certify that the biomass used to create medical extracts is GMP. It is hard enough for flower now.

And don’t forget, there is the pending discussion about Germany’s recreational market.

A New Recreational Grade of Cannabis?

While it is likely that German legislators—if not the three established companies which obtained authorization to cultivate as of the formal cultivation tender—would want Deutschland’s new recreational cannabis to be sourced domestically, it is unlikely that they will be able to meet that demand. They cannot even meet the needs of the medical market.

What is likely, however, is that foreign “GMP” product, including that grown outside and then submitted to a GMP process downstream (starting with drying and curing) may cross the German border only to then be channeled into the recreational market.

Given all the twists and turns so far, this would be far from a surprise.

However, this also means, in effect, that Morocco, along with other African countries on the brink of “medical” cannabis reform or implementation of such policy, is actually taking a bold, brave step into the unknown. And further doing so at a time when the medical cannabis certification process is taking an interesting path.

The winners, in the end, are likely to be consumers.

One thing is for sure: The quality of the formal global market, including what is likely to emanate from Morocco—no matter what its actual certification—is going to be a lot higher than it is now.

The post Morocco’s Cannabis Agency Meets for First Time appeared first on High Times.

Zimbabwe President Commissions $27 Million Medical Cannabis Plant

The president of Zimbabwe on Wednesday reportedly commissioned a farm and processing plant for medical cannabis cultivation worth $27 million.

Business Insider reports that President Emmerson Mnangagwa “commissioned the medical cannabis farm, and processing plant at Mount Hampden set up by Swiss Bioceuticals Limited in West Province, Zimbabwe…to produce cannabis (mbanje or dagga) for medical and scientific purposes,” saying in a speech that “the rapid development of the processing plant, which adds significant value to the crop, was a testimony of the success of the Government’s engagement policy and the confidence Swiss companies and investors had in Zimbabwe and its economy.”

“This milestone is a testimony of the successes of my Government’s Engagement and Re-engagement Policy. It further demonstrates the confidence that Swiss companies have in our economy through their continued investment in Zimbabwe. I extend my profound congratulations to the Swiss Bioceuticals Limited for this timely investment in the medicinal cannabis farm, processing plant and value chain, worth US$27 million,” Mnangagwa said in a speech on Wednesday, as quoted by Business Insider.

Business Insider reported that the president “added that the investors should follow the company’s lead and open their business to support the mantra that ‘Zimbabwe is Open for Business and be ready to generate foreign currency generation for the country.”

The announcement of the farm comes nearly three years after the country did away with its laws banning the cultivation of cannabis as it looked to produce a new crop to export. A year before that, in 2018, the country legalized medical cannabis.

The repeal of the ban is part of a concerted effort by Zimbabwe to pivot from its longtime major exporter, tobacco, of which it is the leading producer on the continent.

As tobacco exports bring in far less money to Zimbabwe farmers and producers than they used to, many in the country’s industry have shifted to cannabis production.

In reporting on the repeal of the cannabis ban in 2019, Bloomberg noted that the country was seeking “to boost export revenue and offset the global campaign against tobacco, a major source of foreign currency,” with Zimbabwe officials saying at the time that it would initially be focused on hemp and medicinal cannabis.

Earlier this week, Reuters detailed the country’s still-young medical cannabis industry and how farmers there have adapted.

Reuters, citing Barclays analysts, reported that the “global cannabis industry could be worth $272 billion by 2028,” and that “Zimbabwe’s Finance Minister Mthuli Ncube has said the country wants at least $1 billion of that—more than it currently makes from its top agricultural export tobacco.”

Reuters spotlighted a 35-year-old Zimbabwean grower named Munyaradzi Nyanungo, who has been issued one of the 57 cannabis operating licenses in the country.

“We stand to sell cannabis at $25 per kilogramme, which is five, six times more than what a good tobacco crop can give you. We are actually sitting on a green gold mine,” Nyanungo told Reuters.

Nyanungo has a U.S.-based partner in “King Kong Organics, which supplies seed and other inputs, purchased the greenhouses under an off-take agreement that will see the company buying the cannabis crop for processing.”

On Wednesday, Mnangagwa, the country’s president, “also urged other investors with permits to quickly operationalize their permits and licenses for the benefit of the economy in general and people in particular,” according to Business Insider.

“I challenge other players within the medicinal cannabis sub-sector to speedily set up their enterprises, focusing on value addition and beneficiation. It is disappointing that since 2018, only 15 out of the 57 entities issued with cannabis operating [licenses] have been operational,” Mnangagwa said, as quoted by Business Insider.

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