Health Minister Jane Ruth Aceng has dispelled reports of her involvement in a company growing cannabis popularly known as marijuana.
Dr Jane Ruth Aceng, according to the company profile of Together Pharma which made rounds on social media over the weekend, is one of the four directors of Together Pharma. The company grows marijuana in several countries the plant is legalized to grow. In Uganda, process is undergoing to allow private companies to grow the plant for high value products such as medicine.
However, her inclusion in the company profile, Dr Aceng, a pediatrician, faces conflict of interest as she is being accused of favoring some companies that are bidding for licenses to grow medical cannabis in Uganda.
One website on the weekend wrote, “Dr Aceng recently pulled a few strings using her clout at the Ministry, which saw two companies secure licenses from the Uganda Investment Authority (UIA), to start marijuana plantations in Uganda…..As a result, Dr Aceng is said to have used her connections and position to issue an Order for for two particular pharmaceutical companies to set up marijuana plantations and research laboratories in Uganda,” The Interrogator UG said on their Facebook page.
However, controversy arose in the Ministry of Health after investors of several companies that sent in requisitions for licenses to grow marijuana for medical purposes in started crying foul, wondering how the two new entrants in the field quickly secured licenses and all necessary authorization to operationalize their projects. This is because there are very many pharmaceutical companies from Canada, USA, Israel, Uganda and other countries that have been processing documentation for licenses and permits to grow marijuana but to date the red tape and bureaucracy involved in the process has frustrated their efforts, yet two new entrants recently scooped authorization to set up their projects, thank to Dr Aceng’s blessing!” the online news channel added.
However, in defence Dr Aceng has said that she is not in cannabis growing and not in trouble over the psychoactive drug.
“I have seen social media posts alleging that I am in trouble over Cannabis and others saying I am dealing in cannabis. It’s unfortunate that some people always choose to circulate wrong information. I wish to categorically state that I am not involved in growing Cannabis and I am in no trouble over Cannabis,” Dr Aceng said in a social media post on Sunday.
Adding, “I have not issued any authorization for cannabis growing in Uganda. Cabinet is yet to consider the feasibility of this. Until then, I request the population to ignore the wrong media posts and treat it baseless and malicious.”
The allegations against the Minister come at a time when Uganda has already set 15 strict guidelines that will be followed by companies that need to grow marijuana in the country.
Among the guidelines, individuals and companies seeking to grow and export the cannabis for medical purposes will be required to present minimum capital of Shs18.3 billion and a bank guarantee of Shs4 billion.
The investors will also be required to present a tax clearance certificate from Uganda Revenue Authority, lists of employees and their description, a valid addition to cannabis and audited accounts.
The marijuana farms must not be located near schools, hospitals and residential areas and in case of any associates /business partners , the details must be disclosed to government , including site designs, a robust security system with access control system and intrusion systems in place.
Currently, more than 100 companies both foreign and local have positioned themselves to grow and export marijuana in the East African country.
The government has already formed a committee chaired by the Internal Affairs Minister Gen Jeje Odongo, to screen the applicants with a view to kicking out ‘speculators’ and recommending ‘serious companies and individuals’ for medical marijuana licenses.
Meanwhile, government has already licensed Industrial Hemp (U) Ltd to grow and export medical cannabis.
The company is currently working with Together Pharma Limited (linked to Dr Aceng), one of the biggest Israeli cannabis firm on the Tel Aviv Stock Exchange.
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