The Gaborone High Court in Botswana has granted Daniel de Beer, the director of Fresh Standard, permission to grow hemp for medicinal and industrial purposes.
The Gaborone High Court judge, Justice Chris Gabanagae ruled last Friday that the revocation of exemption letter de Beer was granted in October 2018 was illegal.
The farmer then engaged in a legal battle with the government arguing he had invested millions of pula into the project based on an exemption granted by former agriculture minister, Patrick Ralotsia.
After being granted permission by the minister, de Beer was shocked after the police raided his farm and uproot his plants saying they were cannabis.
However, the judge said the agriculture permanent secretary (PS) had no right to revoke the exemption letter, adding that only the minister could take such action.
“The PS does not have the power or authority to withdraw the exemption,” Gananagae ruled.
”The letter of March 29, 2019 purporting to withdraw the exemption could not and is not a valid withdrawal of the exemption.”
Justice Gabanagae said the permanent secretary did not have the authority to withdraw the exemption letter, and he also did not engaged de Beer prior to issuing the letter.
The farmer was also never accorded a hearing, and, therefore, withdrawal of exemption letter was “improper and unlawful”.
“The right to a fair hearing cannot be avoided or dispensed with because it is felt that the person otherwise entitled to it would have little or nothing to urge in his favour or that it would not affect the decision anyway,” the judge said.
“The evidence shows clearly and indisputably that the minister granted the exemption to the farmer in respect of the cultivation and processing of hemp and its products along the entire value chain,” he said.
In October 2018, de Beer received an exemption to grow, process and produce products from cannabis sativa and hemp dominant strands for medical and industrial purposes in Botswana.
Following the granting of the exemption, he spent millions of pula in establishing the business, but his farm was on or about May 7, 2019 raided by officers of the Narcotics Squad of the Botswana Police Service.
De Beer told the court, the raid forced him to make an urgent enquiry as his company was operating lawfully.
He added the decision was unreasonable and made without affording him any form of hearing despite the serious effect the decision had on his business.
For centuries, industrial hemp (plant species Cannabis sativa) has been a source of fibre and oilseed used worldwide to produce a variety of industrial and consumer products.
More than 30 nations grow industrial hemp as an agricultural commodity, which is sold on the world market. In the United States, however, production is strictly controlled under existing drug enforcement laws. Currently there is no large-scale commercial production in the United States, and the U.S. market depends on imports.