Minister of Agriculture Development and Food Security Dr Edwin Dikoloti has 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, Dr 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),” Dr Dikoloti emphasised.
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, Dr 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.
Legalizing of industrial hemp in Botswana became the centre of debate prior to the general elections after former Agriculture Minister Patrick Ralotsia was said to be planting the hemp.
Ralotsia was then dropped from cabinet by President Mokgweetsi Masisi over the allegations of him planting the product and later on openly admitted plantation of the cannabis family plant.
Hemp wave in Africa
Leader of Umbrella for Democratic Change (UDC) Duma Boko has reiterated the need for Botswana to legalize industrial hemp for commercial purposes due to its economic value. Boko has several occasions said Botswana is missing out big in the industrial hemp wave as it unlocking economic growth in some of the countries that have legalized it in African continent. Industrial hemp is legalized in 13 nations in Africa, with five of them coming from the SADC region- Lesotho, Malawi, Zimbabwe, Eswatini and South Africa legalizing marijuana too.
The New Frontier Data 2019 report, the Africa Regional Hemp and Cannabis Report: 2019 Industry Outlook, states that 50 countries in the world have legalized hemp production. Report shows that some of the countries legalized hemp for medicinal purposes whiles others such as Mexico, Canada and Georgia to mention a few legalized it for the recreational purposes.
More interestingly, the report uncovered that one- third of worldwide cannabis users stay in Africa noting that Africa’s largest cannabis markets are those with the largest populations.
Report further suggests that since Lesotho became the first African nation to legalize medical cannabis in 2017, Africa cannabis use rate has been nearly twice global average use rate of 6%.