Rwanda’s government has confirmed that it is in discussions with four American and European companies about processing cannabis for export, in order to meet increasing global pharmaceutical demand for the drug.

Officials announced that the move, if successful, would boost the state’s revenues as it battles the effects of coronavirus pandemic.

Rwanda is the latest country to legalize or consider legalizing cannabis to some degree, though the chief justice reiterated that consumption of the narcotic within the country will still constitute an offence.

“The consumption of cannabis is an offence and it will continue to be an offence,” Rwanda’s chief justice Faustin Ntezilyayo said in a news conference on Wednesday.

Cannabis, known as bhang in most parts of the world, has seen its value skyrocket as medical demands for the drug soar.

Rwandan officials believe that the country may make as much as $10 million per hectare, totaling about $650 million from it sale.

Those earnings are higher than earnings from traditional exports like tea and coffee on the same size of land.

 “We have been in talks with four different companies so we will start with those applications,” Rwanda Development Board (RDB) chief executive Clare Akamanzi revealed, adding the firms were from Europe and the United States.

Despite consumption of cannabis and other narcotics banned in Rwanda and punishable by a jail term of up to two years, the government’s revenues have been slashed as measures to contain the coronavirus pandemic batters key sectors like tourism and investment.

Government officials insist that all cannabis produced would be strictly for export, and “the sector will generate significant export revenues and employment opportunities in high value agriculture and agro-processing.”

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