– As Legal Industry is Now Worth USD $146 Billion
By Peter Kpaiyeli, Dempster N. Harris & Arabieu Bah
As the tidal wave of Marijuana (Cannabis) legalization and investments storm across the globe, Liberians are beginning to cautiously embrace the novel herbs.
Sampling views on the street of Monrovia, many Liberians said they will welcome cannabis investment and legalization once the right mechanism is put in place. Many were apprehensive due to the alarming rate of young people being lost to the street who are eking subsistence through pilfering from people or other demeaning ways.
Henretta L. Dukuly, 38, female of Stella Marie Polytechnic said marijuana is used for good and bad but the bad side of the herb is prevalent in Liberia. “See all around us many of our brothers and sisters turning to “zogos”, she said. Medically it is used for lifesaving. She cautioned government to regulate the herb and put all the policies required in place to deter misuse if it will be legalized. She suggested that legalized marijuana should be restricted and government should have total control so as not expose young and older people to the herb.
James P. Kawo, 32, male from Stella Maris Polytechnic said he welcomes the legalization and investment in marijuana. Kawo said that marijuana will help boom the economy and will also build the young capacity through job opportunities.
Jerry Yarsiah, 22, male from university (UL) said he has read recently that some people from Canada came to Liberia to explore marijuana business. “When I saw the story, I laughed hard”. However, he said after reading the story and making some internet research he was surprised to see that people are cured by marijuana. “You know, I was very surprised and that is because marijuana is associated with zogoism in Liberia”. Yarsiah said if the government can regulate marijuana so it does not fall in the hands of the wrong people or becomes abused by young people, he supports marijuana investment. “It will not only be for jobs but also heal people” he said.
Mr. Moses White 30, said it will be necessary for the Government to legalize cannabis now and cash in on all the big money and provide jobs for many people who are unemployed. “Why are they waiting for, all this huge unemployment could be eased by investing in marijuana” he said.
For his part, 48 – year-old, Isaac B. Fode lectured that marijuana has long been an herb used for centuries. “One thing we should understand is that marijuana is an herb but the manner in which we take it is inappropriate for the body. When I was in high school, I was told that marijuana was used to make you sleep but for now people in Liberia take it to be a fool, they go astray after consuming it” he said.
Fode said due to this, he is apprehensive of the legalization of marijuana. “It will not be good for us because we will not have control over it. Take for example, I may have control over it but the others will take it as a pleasure” he said.
The 48-year old said he will accept marijuana legalization under one condition. “I will accept marijuana to be legalized in Liberia under one condition – based on medical ground because it cures illness such as pain, cancel, etc, but it should be sold in the hospital and not in the market” barked Fode.
Abraham Rogers, 26 also said he was worried that young people who are already misusing the herb will only have more latitude to misuse on a wider scale. “I would not actually be proud of it because marijuana has actually been misused in Liberia. There are good usage of marijuana in the world but for Liberia, our young people abuse the privilege of it being here just illegally so what if it is legal” he asked.
“You have to know that in the first place every one does not have the same system and marijuana will have different reaction with in every human body. It may react slow in me and fast in you” he said. He, however, acknowledges that legalization of marijuana will pave the way for jobs and employment but because of how the people are misusing the herb in Liberia, he cannot bring himself to fully support legalization. “I am not supporting it. I prioritize it 100% because it can be used to treat illness but if it will be legalized it should be well restricted by the government” said Rogers.
Three Canadian investors from Verdant Infusions Company are exploring Liberia for marijuana – cannabis investment. The three investors looking to tap into the burgeoning legal cannabis market which is accruing huge sum of money for farmers in many countries that have relaxed the antiquated draconian prohibition law on the use of the novel herb.
Canada recently legalized cannabis making it accessible to citizens and for medical practitioners to administer cannabis treatment to the sick. Cannabis has long been touted as a cure and relief herb for many illnesses but big pharmaceutical companies reportedly spent huge amount of copper fanning negative propaganda thereby suppressing the herb.
From a business perspective, said Michael Westcott, Liberia provides a number of advantages to our organization’s profitability: suitable climate, available land, an available workforce at advantageous rates and a favorable tax regime.
He said as important to the principles of Verdant Infusion company, they recognize that the economy of the Republic of Liberia faces substantial challenges. “In our discussions with a number of government representatives, Verdant Infusions has received strong agreement with our assessment that the agricultural sector of the economy is significantly underperforming and its potential unemployment is rampant, especially amongst the youth.
According to the BBC, the legal marijuana industry is now worth US$ 146 billion.
Last year, Lesotho became the first African country to legalize the cultivation of marijuana for medicinal purposes, spawning a new sector in a country where the economy struggles to create employment opportunities.
As the first mover on the continent, Lesotho aims to capitalize on its green bounty by encouraging international investment not only in cultivation but also processing.
“We want to export finished products. So the plan is to cultivate and manufacture pharmaceutical products, nutritional products, cosmetics, and extraction of active pharmaceutical ingredients,” says Masello Sello, legal adviser at the health ministry, the department responsible for issuing licences.
Lesotho’s entry into the medicinal marijuana market has encouraged other countries to get involved. Zimbabwe has also legalized its cultivation and a number of other African governments are considering it as well.
In South Africa, the Constitutional Court legalized the growing and smoking of marijuana for personal consumption in a landmark ruling earlier this year.
The government of Lesotho has already granted a number of international companies licences to grow, distribute and to export marijuana-based products.
The country has managed to attract Canadian investors, who have found the climate and low labour costs ideal for expanding their businesses.
This year, the Toronto-based Supreme Cannabis Company invested $10m into Medigrow Lesotho, giving it a 10% share of the business.
Medigrow’s sprawling medicinal marijuana farm, in Maseru’s Makarabei district, brings the hope of job opportunities to the impoverished local community.
“We are already employing 400 people, and we are projected to increase our head count to about 3,000 people,” says Medigrow Chief Operating Officer Lebo Liphotho.