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MARKET READINESSCian McClellandArguably the most important aspect to building a sustainable and equitable local cannabis industry is gaining consumer trust in the effectiveness of cannabis as a powerful natural medicine.
Equally important is building trust that local products are of high quality and actually better than most international products. This level of trust can only be achieved through public and retailer education programmes about cannabis and total transparency with all aspects of the local production process. However, there are a number of challenges associated with this…
Top of the list is public education about the proven health benefits of cannabis, how cannabinoid receptors work in the body and the differences between medicine that is made from isolate, full spectrum oil or distillate.
Potential consumers should understand what cannabinoids are and how they function; and which cannabinoid profile is better for the treatment of different ailments. It is no longer a case of ‘cannabis treats all’ because the global industry has rapidly progressed, gathering scientific evidence about different strains, the interactions of their cannabinoids and how different profiles treat different ailments.
Most products on the market in South Africa are made from imported CBD isolate and have limited benefits compared to full spectrum oil. This is because the isolate does not contain any of the other naturally occurring cannabinoids that work together to restore balance and treat the ailment.
Some of these important cannabinoids include CBC, CBG, CBL, CBN and THC, as well as terpenes, fats and waxes, all of which contribute to the overall healing properties of each strain. It is worth noting that there are many cannabinoids that we simply do not understand yet, but what we do know is that they all work symbiotically to create the ‘entourage effect’ and thereby dramatically increase the body’s ability to heal itself.
The other big challenge with isolate is that the international market is being flooded with cheap biomass from China that has been industrially cultivated (think tractors, diesel fumes, oil) and is not medical grade. This biomass is being turned into isolate in medical grade facilities in the West and sold globally to be made into medicine.
However, that medicine could be weak and even toxic as the source cannabis biomass was not medical grade. The consumer actually has no way of knowing and apart from the obvious health risks, the danger is that people use isolate that is weak and has minimal effect. They then assume that cannabis medicine does not work and go back to their old pharma ways.
The reality is that full spectrum cannabis grown under African sun is a far superior medicine to isolate that comes from unreliable sources. To my knowledge there are only 2 full spectrum CBD products available in South Africa, Druid’s Garden & Elixinol.
To further build trust, the consumer needs to know that the source material is grown 100% organically and the necessary Certificates of Analysis for the flower, oil and final product are publicly available.
The other critical challenge to market readiness is reliable test results and this is one of the biggest stumbling blocks to the development of the local cannabis industry.
As a test, we have been sending flower and FECO samples to labs all over the country to compare results. They were wildly different, and our conclusion is that there are no reliable standards currently being used in South Africa. We now send our final testing to Holland.
Inconsistent lab results are a major threat to quality control and the compliance of products allowed on the local market and for export. To build market readiness for a sustainable local industry it is critical that the state regulates testing standards so that all labs are working to the same benchmarks that are internationally recognised.