Botswana High Court upholds marijuana licence for single firm to produce cannabis for goods

  • Fresh Standard (Pty) Limited was granted exclusive rights to cultivate marijuana in Botswana.
  • Initially, the licence was cancelled by the agriculture permanent secretary acting outside his mandate.
  • Government has now been ordered to reimburse Fresh Standard for losses incurred.

The High Court in Botswana has upheld Fresh Standard (Pty) Limited’s exclusive rights to produce hemp and cannabis for industrial and medical purposes in the country.

This is contained in a ruling by Gaborone High Court Judge Chris Gabanagae’s in the case in which the company owned by farmer Barend de Beer sued the government.

In October 2018, through the ministry of agriculture, De Beer was granted an exemption and licence to grow hemp and cannabis for industrial and medicinal purposes.

However, months later on 7 May 2019, the Botswana police’s narcotics unit raided his farm and uprooted young plants in his nursery.

The farmer was later told that his licence had been withdrawn by the permanent secretary in the agriculture ministry.

He then approached the courts arguing that he had a valid permit for the business. He further argued that he stood to lose business worth R1 million (750 000 Botswanan pula) to supply hemp oil and medicinal by-products.

In awarding Fresh Standard permission to continue its business, in a first of its kind court case in Botswana, Justice Gabanagae, noted that the permanent secretary had acted outside of his jurisdiction.

“The minister never delegated his powers to the Permanent Secretary or to any other person for that matter as these are non-delegable,” reads the judgment.

During the course of the suit, the then minister of Agriculture Development and Food security Patrick Ralotsia said he didn’t cancel the licence. In fact, he rejected the permanent secretary’s intention to have Fresh Standard suspend its operations pending the establishment of a multi-variate committee to undertake consultations.

“I conclude as a fact that the minister never withdrew the exemption. It is declared that the exemption letter constitutes a valid and lawful exemption in terms of Section 20 of the PPA. The respondent is to pay the cost of this application including costs of the senior counsel,” ruled Justice Gabanagae.

Zambia, Uganda, Zimbabwe, the Democratic Republic of Congo, Lesotho, South Africa, Kenya, and Ghana are among the African countries that permit cannabis farming as a legal cash crop. Botswana is behind this trend, leading to the court challenge.