Thursday, December 8, 2022

Horticulture council claims ignorance over HEMP economic benefits

Botswana Horticulture Council has claimed ignorance over the economic benefits of industrial hemp as the legal tussle between fresh standard and government has been on going.

This comes after a panel of judges at the Court of Appeal recently dismissed Fresh standard company from cultivating industrial hemp in Botswana.

Last year, Gaborone High court ruled in favour of Fresh standard company thus giving them permission to grow industrial hemp for medicinal purposes.

Following the CoA ruling, the Botswana Horticulture Council Spokesperson Solomon Tshenyo said that little information about the cannabis product has been provided thus making it difficult to back the product without proper knowledge.

“It will not be proper for me to back this product without any knowledge about it because you also have to understand that there are laws in this country which prohibit certain products,”

“I have not had the time to engage the Fresh standard company to understand their viewpoint on this product because it is controversial and that is why government has been seeking court intervention on the matter,” he said.

He stated that he remains unsure whether the inclusion of industrial hemp can aid their efforts boosting the horticulture sector.

Government had appealed a high court decision which gave Fresh standard company a green light to grow, produce and process products of cannabis sativa and hemp dominant strains for medical and industrial purposes in Botswana

Tshenyo highlighted that even though it has been claimed that the product has the potential to rake in millions, it should not be forgotten it will always face scrutiny as it is considered an illegal substance in some countries.

“There is need for a proper study to be done as well to establish how this product can be done in Botswana because I strongly believe sometimes it is not because government is blatantly refusing but rather the approach is not good,”

“We all want to believe that there is enough land but now the question is the approach and whether government will agree to their proposal especially after a lengthy legal battle,” added Tshenyo.

He further said the horticulture council has an open door policy to discuss any matters that can contribute to the horticulture sector.

“If proper information had been shared with us regarding benefits of this product then surely we could have set down and understood whether this is a proposal which we can approach government with or not,”

“In the space of horticulture surely we all need each other in order to grow the industry but sometimes I do feel that some people fail because of working in cellos,” he said.

Government has previously said growing of Industrial Hemp also known as Cannabis is prohibited and is punishable by law in Botswana.

Responding to question by Selebi Phikwe West Member of Parliament, Dithapelo Keorapetse, The then Minister of Agriculture Edwin Dikoloti said there are laws in place which guard against production of hemp. “Industrial hemp is clearly prohibited in Botswana in accordance with First Schedule of the Planet Protection Act of 2007, Cap 35:02,  and also according to the Illicit Traffic in Narcotic Drugs and Psychotropic Substances Act of 2018, Part II Section 6 (1),”  Dikoloti emphasized.

The section states that “any person who, without lawful authority, cultivates any plant which can be used or consumed as a narcotic drug or psychotropic substance, or form which a narcotic drug or narcotic substance can be extracted, commits and offence and shall be liable to a fine not exceeding P500, 000 or imprisonment for a term not exceeding 20 years or to both,”.

Keorapetse had asked the minister to state if there is any law or rules and the regulations specifically prohibiting the growing of Industrial Hemp or use of its products in Botswana. He wanted the minister to also update parliament on global regional trends on the hemp industry in particular to state if he is aware of any local or international study on the hemp.

Selebi Phikwe West legislator has said Botswana lags behind in keeping pace with some of its counterparts whom have legalized hemp and its related products to diversify their economies. On the aspect of the global value of the industry as well as the number of people working in hemp industry globally, Dikoloti said MPs can have access to related information. “Such information is available on the public domain. “I expect the honorable MP (Keorapetse), as a researcher to be familiar with this information,” said newly appointed agriculture minister.

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