Policymakers in Ghana should implement hemp rules that favor local investors and farmers under a well-equipped agency that will spearhead production and research into developing the sector, Chinese researchers say in a new paper.
The conclusions were reached in “Industrial hemp as an agricultural crop in Ghana,” a study by researchers from the Zhongnan University of Economics and Law published this month in the Journal of Cannabis Research.
Thie paper, which looks at the economic prospects of industrial hemp, suggests that the legislation passed last year can pave the way to a new agricultural cash crop for Ghana’s farmers. Notably, the conclusions of the Chinese researchers differ from earlier studies that discounted hemp’s advantages by primarily arguing against the general legalization of all cannabis on narcotics grounds.
Ghana’s Parliament last spring passed a law that legalizes the use of cannabis for health and industrial purposes but gave the country’s Narcotics Control Board (NACOB) oversight of industrial hemp. The legislation allows for industrial and medical purposes only, and draws the line between marijuana and hemp at 0.3% THC.
Applications of industrial hemp such as biofuel and construction might not be currently feasible in Ghana due to technology disadvantages, the report notes, but the country can nevertheless grow hemp as a raw material for export and make some semi-finished products for the domestic market, the report suggests.
While CBD is presumably not legal over the counter as the law reads, the report nonetheless suggests that “the legalization and commercialization present a new opportunity for the Ghanaian pharmaceutical industry to research into CBD and possibly produce CBD-related drugs for the local market.” Also, herbal medicine producers should explore the potential of hemp for medicinal and therapeutic products, the report suggests.
Hemp could also revive Ghana’s flagging textile industry, which has tailed off in recent years, according to the Chinese researchers. That means an opportunity for fiber hemp as a rotational crop, the report suggests.
“The introduction of textiles made from hemp, which is gradually gaining popularity in the modern fashion industry, will likely increase the prospects of the struggling textile industry. Therefore, legalization and commercialization provide new opportunities for farmers and hope for the textile industry,” the report notes, also mentioning the specific possibility that hemp fiber can be turned into materials for acoustic absorption.
In other observations from the report:
- Licensing fees should be flexible and in a framework that will allow local entrepreneurs to get a foothold in the hemp industry first. The report suggests that Ghana avoid rules such as those in Lesotho, through which only big corporations can afford licensing fees that can reach as high as $37,000. Hemp fees in Ghana should be suitable for small-scale farmers, although there is a need for strict supervision of hemp growing to prevent the abuse of any licenses granted.
- The legalization and commercialization of industrial hemp can create significant new foreign direct investments for the country.
- Hemp can play a role in transforming Ghana’s economy from one that is foreign aid-dependent to one that is self-reliant and investment-driven – the overarching goal of the Ghana Beyond Aid agenda which has had success with some automobile giants such as Volkswagen and Nissan, which have set up assembly plants in Ghana. That kind of development can be replicated in the cannabis industry, the report implies.
- Ghana has climatic and soil conditions well suited to the production of industrial hemp. Despite the technological challenges faced by the country’s farmers, agriculture makes up about 20% of Ghana’s GDP.
- Established institutions such as the Planting for Food and Jobs program launched in 2017 to modernize agriculture, create jobs and reduce poverty could serve as the framework for research into development of the cannabis sectors.
- Ghana should engage in knowhow partnerships with institutions in China, Canada and the USA that already have experience in hemp production.