The government has expedited progress on establishing the Cannabis Control and Regulatory Authority (CCRA) to regulate marijuana crop for medical and industrial use.

Two projects had been launched during the previous government of Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) for producing marijuana for medical and industrial purposes.

Now, the present government has decided to set up an authority that will deal with issues pertaining to cannabis.Sources said that the authority would issue licences to farmers for crop cultivation with the objective of using marijuana in medical and industrial sectors.

Officials said that the caretaker government had consulted the provincial governments where consensus was reached on setting up an authority.

The Ministry of National Food Security and Research will be the lead ministry and CCRA will be placed under the Cabinet Division.

A draft composition of the CCRA board of governors has been made and a map has been developed for potential cannabis cultivation regions.

Sources said that a CCRA bill would be placed before the cabinet for approval while its implementation plan along with timelines would be presented to the top leadership.

National Seed Policy

According to officials, the government is also working on the National Seed Policy, which will include genetically modified organism (GMO)-based crops.

Amendments to the Seed Act and Rules will be made and a variety evaluation committee will be set up at the federal level. A track and trace system will also be developed for seeds. Other measures like the track and trace system for seed certification including crop inspection, seed sampling and seed testing modules will be undertaken.

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The government will establish a complaint management system and development apps for the agriculture sector for better crop sowing practices.

In the second phase, the government will finalise the system requirement specification, documentation for registration and MIS modules for seed business companies, plant varieties and nurseries.

It will launch test run of phase-Il of the system requirement specification MIS modules and develop a single mobile app for all users and modules of the track and trace system.

The government has granted, in principle, approval for establishing a plant breeding rights registry under the Plant Breeder Rights Act 2016.

It is working on setting up the National Seed Authority (NSA), for which a consultation meeting of the ministerial committee had been held and first draft of the authority’s structure and functions was finalised.

The second review of the NSA draft had also been conducted and discussions on a legal framework were held on January 1, 2024, which led to divergent views from committee members regarding the establishment of the authority.

The government has granted, in principle, approval for setting up the NSA and advised to build consensus on an implementation plan.

In addition, it is working on the Agricultural Development Authority Act and has set timelines for its approval and implementation.

It has hired legal consultants through the Asian Development Bank (ADB) to develop a regulatory framework for corporate, contract and small holder farming.

Study reports and first draft of the Agricultural Development Act 2023 and Framework Rules have been submitted to the government body concerned. The government will finalise the draft of the Agricultural Development Act 2023 and Framework Rules while the food ministry will get them vetted from the ministries concerned.

It will be submitted to the Council of Common Interests (CCI) to take provinces on board for formal approval.

Published in The Express Tribune, January 26th, 2024.

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