SA can profit handsomely from the ‘dope dividend’

Farmers with their specially developed harvesting machines crop a cannabis field in Naundorf, eastern Germany, on September 19, 2018. The Mariplant company, a subsidiary of Canadian producer Maricann, cultivates the legal medical cannabis on around 170 hectares to gain the cannabidiol substance. Picture: AFP PHOTO

Factories can be set up to provide paper, carpets, textiles, insulation, houses, chipboard, fuel, essential fatty acid oils, cosmetics and varnish, among other things.

A single hectare of hemp with average yields under good growing conditions can provide up to R805 000 worth of product.

That’s according to Neil Webster of the Cannabis Industry Development Cooperative of South Africa.

“The challenge we are facing is to assist government to develop an enabling legislative framework to ensure the potential economic opportunities are extended to the poor,” he said.

From a single hectare, the association said it was possible to get R50 000 worth of stalk biomass, R18 000 of fibre, R32 000 of hurd, R155 000 worth of seed (oil, shelled seeds and seedcake), and R600 000 worth of cannabidiol.

“From these products you can set up factories to provide paper, carpets, textiles, insulation, bio composites, houses, chipboard, animal bedding, fuel, essential fatty acid oils, cosmetics, varnish, tinctures and more,” he said.

It’s now legal to smoke dagga in private, and there is real money to be made. A Reuters report noted in 2014 that the “Netherlands’ famous red-light districts and ‘coffee’ shops selling sex and drugs contribute €2.5 billion a year to the national economy, or slightly more than the country’s consumption of cheese”. Or nearly R43 billion a year in today’s numbers. Forty-three billion rand here would go a long way towards alleviating poverty.

Plans are afoot to explore the plant further and to monetise its almost endless products, which other countries have already done. “We have already seen the first-round call for proposals from the Medical Control Council for the industrial propagation of medicinal cannabis. From the hundreds of applications over 20 were finalised for the validation that should see the first commercial medicinal cannabis grown in SA in the next year.”

The Agricultural Research Council (ARC) noted that because of its classification, it was illegal to handle or cultivate Cannabis sativa L (hemp). Spokesperson Mpho Ramosili said: “But the recent Constitutional Court ruling could significantly alter the regulatory requirements for handling hemp.”

Minister of Trade and Industry Rob Davies said recently: “The department recognises the potential value to be derived from commercial value chains of cannabis and related products. Thus it has undertaken research to understand, from an industrial policy perspective, the opportunities for SA to become an active player in this market.”

Government to research uses of the cannabis plant

Trade and Industry Minister Rob Davies has commissioned a study into the uses of the cannabis plant.

“Opportunities and obstacles to developing industrial capacity and capability across the medicinal and related products will be considered,” Davies said in response to a question in parliament.

“The focus will be to understand the obstacles and opportunities involved in the cultivation of different strains of cannabis with specific THC and CBD composition, the recovery of these compounds in the oil extraction process and the beneficiation of THC and CBD through the production of medical products as well as cosmetic and healthcare products like balms, creams and tinctures.”

Davies said the results of the study would determine how the products could be industrialised.

In South Africa, “legislative barriers restrict the amount of hemp produced,” noted Agricultural Research Council (ARC) spokesperson Mpho Ramosili.

“There is an existing market in SA for imported hemp products, mainly hemp textiles and fibre. Several hemp products, such as clothing, soap and shampoo, are manufactured in SA from imported raw materials.

“Dagga varieties contain about five to 20% of delta9-tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), an active ingredient with psychoactive effects,” said Ramosili.

“Hemp has much lower concentrations of THC (less than 1%) and higher concentrations of cannabidiol, with minimal psychoactive effects. Hemp is more fibrous and has more oil. As hemp contains little THC, it’s not used as a recreational drug.”

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