Medi Kingdom launches marijuana processing plant

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Ntsebeng Motsoeli

PRIME Minister Thomas Thabane has urged Basotho to seize the opportunities presented by the nascent local medical marijuana industry to establish their own plantations to produce the plant that promises to turn the country into an economic powerhouse.

Dr Thabane said this at this week’s official launch of the Mejametalana marijuana processing plant in Qoaling in the Maseru district. The plant is owned by Medi Kingdom Holdings.

Its website shows that Medi kingdom is a “privately held company with strong ties to the United Kingdom including pharmaceutical and biotechnology industry partnerships”.

Medi Kingdom began cultivating medical marijuana in Nazareth in the Maseru district and Qacha’s Nek district in 2016.

Speaking at the official launch, Dr Thabane urged Basotho to refrain from the production of illegal marijuana and seize the opportunity to better their lives through the cultivation of the legal medical marijuana.

“The government shall ensure fair play in the (medical marijuana) field,” Dr Thabane said.

“We encourage more Basotho to take advantage of the opportunity (presented by the legalising of the growing of medical marijuana) and establish similar plantations after following the legal processes.

“This investment will boost our economy and transfer the skills we need for the betterment of our people. I am informed that this company is going to build world-class laboratories to process the plant for medical extracts which are already in high demand across the globe. A football pitch, Medi Stadium, and training centres will also be built. Local people will be trained on the production and processing of marijuana according to international standards.

“Lesotho already has marijuana market in countries like Austria, Canada and other European countries. It is our biggest hope that this project becomes a success for economic growth and job creation.”

Dr Thabane said the legalising of the growing of medical marijuana was not an encouragement for illegal production and dealings in marijuana. He added that the launch of the project came at a critical time when the health system was overwhelmed by non-communicable diseases such as cancer, hypertension, diabetes, injuries and dementia.

“For a long time, individuals in Lesotho have been illegally producing marijuana that ends up in illegal markets and used for the wrong purposes without any significant benefits for the country and its citizens.

“Marijuana has been grown illegally for a long time in Lesotho but research has revealed that marijuana can be used for medicinal purposes and many countries have already started finding cures for some diseases using extracts of the plant. This will bring us closer to finding cures for cancer, hypertension, arthritis and other non-communicable diseases.

“These diseases claim lives of countless Basotho on a yearly basis. Due to the benefits of medical marijuana, we are confident that our health system will be in position to mount a meaningful fight against cancer, autism, epilepsy, heart diseases and many others.”

Dr Thabane said despite of the harsh weather conditions due to global warming, Lesotho was still able to produce first-class medicinal marijuana due to its   geographical characteristics which included a cool, high-altitude with low air and soil pollution.

On his part, the Minister of Health, Nkaku Kabi said the growth of the medical marijuana industry was hindered by people who clung onto licences despite failing to raise the M540 000 to pay for them.

“We have potential investors who are willing to put money into the project but are not able to do so because many people are holding onto the licenses,” Mr Kabi said.

He said the International Narcotics Control Board (INCB), an international overseer of the United Nations drug control conventions based in Vienna, Austria has warned the government not to overproduce marijuana as that would encourage illegal dealings.

“The INCB has warned us not to produce more than the market demand because that could lead to illegal dealings. They have warned us that if that happens, they will shut our operations immediately without warning. That would mean all the investments would have gone down the drain,” Mr Kabi said.

In an interview with this publication, the Medi Kingdom Holdings Chief Executive and co-founder, James Mather, said the company was committed to marketing Lesotho as a world-class cultivator of medical marijuana.

“We have invested M30 million since 2015. We intend to invest over M1 billion into our operations in the coming years with foreign investment from capital markets. We are using local suppliers and we will tender for more work locally in the new year.

“Millions of people are enjoying the medical use of cannabis throughout the world. Our work here is to ensure that Lesotho is recognised as a world-class cultivator of the finest medical cannabis on the planet,” Mr Mather said.

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