Durban – AS the South African economy reels from the economic lockdown that has hit many industries hard, the KwaZulu-Natal Department of Economic Development, Tourism and Environmental Affairs was investing in the cannabis industry.
Representatives of the industry have said that the easing of regulations around cannabis will help tackle problems such as hunger and Covid-19.
EDTEA MEC, Nomusa Dube-Ncube, said the department’s Moses Kotane Institute of Technology had a Cannabis Unit which dealt with investment into developing the industry.
So far the department has allocated about R10 million for this purpose. “Through Moses Kotane, we have signed an MoU with CSIR (Council for Scientific and Industrial Research) which will assist in conducting of financial and due diligence on facilities that require commercialisation of Hemp. This agreement is specifically crafted to deal with matters of agro-processing, pharmaceuticals/neutraceuticals and laboratory facilities,” she said.
Dube-Ncube said they were also helping communities to get licensing to cultivate the product and working with other government departments to get access to land, fencing and testing.
“We have applied for 32 cultivation permits with SAPHRA (South African Health Products Regulatory Authority). We are hopeful that 32 farmers within the province will be granted such permits and these will benefit local communities. In addition we are capacitating these farmers through our enterprise development program,” she said.
Krithi Thaver, founder member of the Cannabis Development Council of South Africa said cannabis could tackle many of the challenges facing South Africa right now.
“There are thousands of cannabis growers that have been growing cannabis in rural communities that are generational farmers. Once this process has been formalised, it will unlock the full capability of the cannabis plant. If we define the rules to suit our country and its people, and do not get side tracked by international players coming in to dictate how this process can go forwards, Africa, not just South Africa, but Africa can be one of the largest players in commercial cannabis and I foresee our Rand being stronger than the dollar, but important political decisions need to be made to allow the entire industry to unlock by incorporating the people that been been cultivating it for millenia,” he said.
Thaver pointed to many uses of cannabis and said that there were about 50 000 uses of the plant. Some these uses could be helpful to some of the challenges that faced South Africa. These uses include the hard hit textile industry where instead of importing textiles,cannabis can be cultivated to create materials that are as soft as silk and tough as jeans. This could add thousands of jobs to the economy he said.
Another use for cannabis was that it could help with the food crisis that is happening right now and boost people’s immune systems to combat Covid-19.
“The cannabis plant contains various compounds and is capable of acting as a super immune booster to the human body. With the current COVID-19 Pandemic, local production of medication can assist in taking care of the lack of medicines in the public sector and can also create superfoods for the hungry”.