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OUR RISE − DRUID's GARDENCian McClellandGet into cannabis they said, it will be easy and fun they said…. what a joke! The last 3 years has been a rollercoaster ride, exploring new paradigms and dealing with some hard lessons.
Druid’s Garden comes from a background in traditional African and Asian medicines made from plants and mushrooms, so it seemed like a natural step that we officially moved into cannabis in mid 2018. We applied for a hemp R&D permit to cultivate, produce and conduct commercial research trials on CBD products and were granted that permit by the Department of Health (DoH) in April 2019.
We developed our own genetics and experimented with local landrace and hybrid international strains from seed to final products such as oral drops and topical creams.
We also applied for our SAHPRA medical grade cannabis cultivation license in late 2018 and began a journey of rapid learning about millions of medical compliance requirements and the associated documentation. After nearly 2 and a half years of innumerable challenges we were awarded our license in February 2021.
Compliance is an area that is often underestimated and ends up taking a lot more time and money than anticipated. In the beginning we employed a part time compliance officer that is now full time…and has an assistant…and an administrator. Don’t ever underestimate the massive amount of paperwork required to do anything with medical cannabis. And it seems that the industry will be even more regulated with more and more reports to write and forms to fill in. So we took a decision to go more electronic with automated control systems and data collection to make compliance and reporting simpler and more accurate.
One positive aspect of our development is the use of cutting edge agri-technology to control and record climatic conditions, CO2 levels, irrigation and the use of nutrients. This allows the implementation of automated track and trace systems that record the plants full history, from the breeding of the seed/clone right up to the final consumer product.
All collected data is stored on blockchain and accessible to a wholesaler or the end user with the scan of a bar or QR code. This traceability is key to ensuring quality control and is already an international requirement.
Quality control and the standard operating procedures (SOP’s) required to achieve quality objectives is critical for every single action that happens at the Druid’s Garden facility.
In 2019 we had about 17 SOP’s and now have nearly 80 SOP’s with over 40 supporting documents…and still amend them regularly as we improve and refine our methodologies and quality standards.
Druid’s Garden does a lot of its own research and therefore has first-hand data on its raw materials and final products. The R&D permit allowed us to develop over 20 cannabis medicines and we are currently preparing to register 4 of those as a start.
Our main off-take client is an Australian pharmaceutical company and in order to supply them and their international clients we were required to undergo an audit by their Therapeutic Goods Authority. This has been going on for 3 months and is one of the toughest processes we have ever had to endure. We thought that the SAHPRA standards were high, but this is another level.
The upside is that the TGA certification will allow us to supply medical grade flower anywhere in the world. Something that most local cannabis farmers thought they could do, but then realised that they were not compliant to international standards and could therefore not sell their flower or oil. Research, quality and consistency are paramount to success with medical cannabis and it is only because we put so much effort into them that we have managed to grow sustainably.