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Kenyan presidential candidate smoked misleading claims about marijuana trade

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A Kenyan presidential candidate who has styled his campaign on the legalization and marketing of marijuana says it offers the country a way to wipe out its public debt of 8.2 trillion Kenyan shillings (about $69 billion) . In television interviews, Roots Party leader George Wajackoyah has made broad, unsubstantiated statements about marijuana, ranging from its legal status in the United States to revenue generated by other countries selling the crop. AFP Fact Check examines some of his statements.

Wajackoyah is among four presidential candidates cleared by the Kenyan electorate to contest next month’s elections on August 9, 2022.

A lawyer, he stands out for his outfit as much as his defense of marijuanathat he promises to smoke openly if elected president.

Roots party presidential candidate George Wajackoyah, during a campaign rally in Ruai, Nairobi, on July 27, 2022 (AFP / SIMON MAINA)

Marijuana is illegal in Kenya, but Wajackoyah has promised to change all that with a legalization policy, arguing that the crop has the potential to unlock billions of dollars for the country.

“…We have the solution and that solution is the cultivation of marijuana that will allow this country to erase all outstanding debts,” he said in an interview on Citizen TV.

However, some of his claims are greatly exaggerated.

Marijuana decriminalized in the United States

Wajackoyah has claimed in two different TV interviews that the US federal government has decriminalized marijuana.

On June 8, 2022, in an interview on Citizen televisionWajackoyah said, “Two weeks ago the United States decriminalized marijuana as a federal offence. We have 22 states now officially growing marijuana.”

He repeated the claim on June 29, 2022, during an interview on NTV.

“In the United States, the federal government has decriminalized marijuana so that it is no longer a federal offense,” he said.

It’s not true.

While many US states have made significant progress in marijuana regulation, at the federal level, possession and distribution of the substance remains an offense punishable by imprisonment.

According US lawmarijuana is still classified as a Schedule I substance, a class of drugs that “currently have no accepted medical use in the country, cannot be safely prescribed, and have a high potential for abuse.”

Currently, 19 states, two U.S. territories, and the District of Columbia have approved recreational marijuana — presumably the 22 states Wajackoyah was referring to.

A total of 41 states and territories have regulated the drug for medical use, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures (NCSL).

Screenshot from NCSL website, taken July 28, 2022

Canada’s benefit

In both interviews, Wajackoyah claimed that by 2021, Canada had made hundreds of billions of dollars in profits from the marijuana trade.

“If you look at Canada, last year alone they made $486 billion from marijuana,” Wajackoyah said, insisting that legalizing and commercializing the plant would help Kenya eliminate all its debt.

He made a similar statement on Citizen TV, repeating that Canada got “$487 billion in 2021.”

But these alleged revenues are false.

According to Deloitte Cannabis 2021 Annual Report, culture has contributed $43.5 billion to Canada’s GDP since 2018, when it was legalized. Total sales over the same period were estimated at $11 billion, with the government receiving $15.1 billion in miscellaneous taxes and levies.

But while those numbers pale in comparison to Wajackoyah’s claims, Deloitte’s assessment of the industry was reasonably glowing.

“We found that the Canadian cannabis sector has made a significant economic contribution…in the short three years since legalization,” the report says, adding that 98,000 sustainable jobs have been created.

Viability

Canadian economist and commodities specialist Steve Burk told AFP Fact Check that the process of legalizing, commercializing and eventually realizing the benefits of cannabis is more complex than what Wajackoyah did in his campaign.

“Government investment in a cannabis industry would not scratch the surface of Kenya’s debt over the next 10 years and would likely increase debt stress,” Burke said.

Deloitte estimates the capital expenditures of the cannabis industry in Canada between 2018 and 2021 at $29 billion. This represents about 42% of Kenya’s public debt.

Burke added that the regulations alone were costly enough to be a barrier.

“The demand for cannabis still represents only a tiny proportion of national economies, typically less than 0.1%, and therefore represents an even smaller proportion of tax revenue… No country has a sufficiently large cannabis market. important in making domestic production viable enough on a large scale to provide significant relief to government finances,” Burke said.

The Canadian government engaged approximately $46 million for public education and awareness after the legalization of marijuana in 2018.

Ali Khan sachuCEO and founder of a Kenyan investment advisory firm, was equally cool on the prospects for marijuana.

“Kenya’s debt is in the order of $70 billion. There is no plausible path where marijuana revenue could extinguish the debt,” Satchu said.

Burke, who is chief economist at CRM AgriCommodities, a UK-based company that deals with the grain and oilseed market, added that while the market for medical and recreational marijuana is growing, it is not uniform across all industry segments and for success. , it takes specialization and years of investment.

“To break even would require years of industry investment and research and development to capture international market share, which is becoming more competitive by the day with major developed economies leading the way. “, did he declare.