Rwanda legalises medical use of Cannabis

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Rwanda has passed a new order that legalises medical use of Cannabis, also known as marijuana, as the country moves closer to mass production and export of the multi-billion-dollar cash crop.

The consumption of Cannabis products for recreational purposes remains illegal in Rwanda. The country maintains harsh penalties for illegal production, distribution and consumption of Cannabis.

A new Ministerial Order governing Cannabis and its products in Rwanda gazetted on Monday lists guidelines for the growing, processing, exporting and medical use of marijuana.

Under the signature of the Minister of Health Daniel Ngamije and the Minister of Justice Johnston Busingye, the new law clarifies that recreational use of marijuana remains illegal and punishable by law.

The new Ministerial Order No 003/MoH/2021 of 25/06/2021 Relating to the Cannabis and Cannabis Products stipulates that “any investor or person who is committed to perform any activity of cultivation, processing, importation, export and use of Cannabis and Cannabis products, for medical or research purposes” is eligible to do so.

The law lists eight available licences and activities allowed under each licence, which will be valid for five years.

Article 18 of the order states that “The competent authority suspends a licence if the licence holder does not comply with provisions of the Order and those of relevant laws or regulations.”

Aspiring investors are required to establish high level security to their establishments such as double layered fencing, ensuring patrol control in between the two layers of the fence, hiring a licensed private security service company to secure the facility 24 hours a day, security lighting, video surveillance cameras, watchtowers, an intrusion detection system, a communication control room, bright signage, among others.

Not adhering to the guidelines will result in an administrative fine of not less than Rwf1 million and not more than Rwf50 million (Approximately $1015-$50,787). If the offence is repeated, the fine payable is doubled.

According to Rwanda Development Board (RDB), the Government of Rwanda expects the sector to generate significant export revenues and employment opportunities in high-value agriculture and agro-processing.

The order comes after the passing of the National Pharmaceutical Product Pricing and Containment policy in October 2020. Rwanda is a signatory to all relevant UN conventions relating to narcotics.

Rwanda joins African countries like Lesotho, Morocco, Uganda and Zimbabwe that have legalised medical use of marijuana.

The production of Cannabis in Rwanda will be done in adherence to the law governing narcotic drugs, psychotropic substances and precursors. The law still categorises Cannabis under illegal narcotics.

The law governing narcotic drugs, psychotropic substances and precursors, imposes fines of between Rwf500,000 ($507) and Rwf5m ($5,078) and prison terms of between three to five years for anyone found illegally using marijuana.

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