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Lesotho is “Pace-setting” the African Cannabis Movement, But All is Not Rosy

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Lesotho, as a nation, has made great strides towards the de-stigmatization and commercialization of cannabis. Unlike most other African nations, the “Kingdom in the Sky” began granting licenses to locals and foreigners to cultivate cannabis for medical use in 2018. Granted, the climatic conditions make it very favorable for this profitable cash crop to thrive. Most importantly, if the opportunity is well utilized, Lesotho can make significant economic gains from exporting cannabis to the European market. We spoke to Tseli Khiba, a legal expert and founder or Oane- a cannabis consulting firm in Lesotho, to get her insights about the real situation on the ground.

Without further ado, welcome Tseli.

You have a legal background. How did you find yourself in cannabis?

I was working at a local law firm in 2016, when I was assigned to a new project concerning an application for an ‘operator’s license in terms of Lesotho’s Drugs of Abuse Act. The existing legal framework made provision for the Ministry of Health to issue licenses which allowed applicants to cultivate, manufacture, acquire, administer etc any ‘drug of abuse or analogue.’ From that experience, and the exposure I got to the commercial cannabis industry, I found it to be a dynamic industry, with a long history in Africa, and many prospects for the future.

What’s the legal status of cannabis in Lesotho? What can one do or not do? Are there any efforts that are being made towards full legalization and what is the progress so far?

Cannabis in Lesotho is still illegal for use outside of the Drugs of Abuse regime but is largely tolerated.

Without the license that allows persons to manufacture, acquire, and administer cannabis, persons found to be involved in unlawful cultivation, manufacture, sale etc of cannabis could be found guilty of committing a criminal offense.

The matter is further complicated by the fact that the definition of cannabis does not distinguish between CBD, hemp and other cannabis derivatives, which could provide other avenues for people to participate in the industry, and gain access to much needed products.

There are legislative reforms that are underway, that are aimed at ensuring that the industry becomes more inclusive, however, it is difficult to give a timeline in this regard.

Lesotho definitely has several legacy cannabis operators. What efforts are being made to incorporate them into the legal industry?

The legislative reforms that are currently underway, aim to create a more inclusive cannabis industry in Lesotho. Legacy cannabis operators stand to benefit from the provisions and measures that are to be introduced.

You are the founder of Oane, can you tell us what Oane does?

Oane Solutions is a play on the Sesotho word for cannabis – ‘matekoane.’ It is a cannabis consulting company, through which I provide regulatory and compliance advice to various operators in the cannabis industry.

Many African nations, even where weed is illegal, import cannabis. What’s your take on this?

In many cases this occurs in order to meet medical cannabis needs – i.e. the importation of registered medicinal cannabis products that can be accessed by patients with an appropriate prescription, or demand for hemp – mainly in the form of fiber and seeds.

I do not think that imports of cannabis products are sustainable or logical, especially in the case of African countries. The imported products tend to be very expensive, and inaccessible for many sections of society, and overlooks the potential of the domestic market that has been hindered by unjust laws.

The Lesotho government has licensed foreign (Canadian) companies to produce cannabis in Lesotho. What do you think about this trend and what is likely to be the repercussion?

To the best of my knowledge, the Lesotho government has licensed companies that may have foreign participants and investors, from Canada, South Africa and other jurisdictions that have partnered with locals on various cannabis ventures.

This approach has facilitated access to capital and export markets, and compliance with international standards and quality requirements.

On the other hand it is important to ensure that the international commercial aspects of the industry do not create or perpetuate barriers to entry that prevent locals from participating meaningfully in the industry. It is also important to guard against illicit financial flows from Africa, the exploitation of employees and local communities, and ensure protection of land rights.

It was a great pleasure talking to Tseli Khiba, a legal expert and cannabis enthusiast at heart. To learn more about her engagement in the cannabis industry in Lesotho you can check out her business website.

 

 

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Lydia K. (Bsc. RN) is a cannabis writer, which, considering where you’re reading this, makes perfect sense. Currently, she is a regular writer for Mace Media. In the past, she has written for MyBud, RX Leaf & Dine Magazine (Canada), CBDShopy (UK) and Cannavalate & Pharmadiol (Australia). She is best known for writing epic news articles and medical pieces. Occasionally, she deviates from news and science and creates humorous articles. And boy doesn't she love that! She equally enjoys ice cream, as should all right-thinking people.

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