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DEREGULATING THE LOCAL INDUSTRYCian McClellandCertain forms of regulation are necessary to ensure public safety, but who should design, implement, and police those regulations? “Nothing About Us, Without Us”, is as relevant now as it ever was. We are currently in a crisis where the growth of the industry is being crippled by the slow pace of regulatory change. There is a lot of good intent in most sectors, but a lack of authentic dialogue that translates into decisive action. Regulations need to do more than govern production and ensure public safety, they must increase access, ensure fair play, promote ‘Proudly South African’, safeguard local players, empower entrepreneurs across the full value chain and of course, educate the public.
Public awareness and demand is growing exponentially and the regulations need to guarantee that the South African public has access to local natural medicines that are affordable and effective. This requires opening up the cultivation and processing aspects of the value chain to meet the public demand, for a medicine that is a human right.
The biggest barrier to entry for mass participation in the production of medical cannabis, besides funding, is the regulation that medical grade cannabis can only be grown in tunnels/greenhouses, in bags with bought substrate and hydroponic type nutrients. This is a colonial model, very expensive, unsustainable and an unnecessary restriction on cannabis because:A large number of pharmaceutical products are made from outdoor cultivated and wild-harvested plants. These plants grow in the ground and provide the Active Pharmaceutical Ingredient (API) for a myriad of medicines, such as willow bark for aspirin, pelargonium sidoides for cough mixtures, poppies for opium, etc, etc.
Those plants are regulated to medical standards and graded at point of processing and not during the cultivation process. If the harvested plants do not meet the required quality, they are rejected, and cannabis should be treated the same way. Our local landrace strains have been proven by UFS to be amongst the best cannabinoid profiles for medicine in the world. The fact that they are usually grown directly in the ground is a very significant point as African soil is rich in nutrients and contributes to the overall healing properties of the medicines.
If your soil and water is tested regularly then why can’t you grow cannabis naturally like so many other plant-derived API’s?
Growing any cannabis plant in a bag uses six times more water in the veg stage and eight times more water in the flowering stage. Landrace strains also use a lot less water than the commercially available strains.
Why buy nutrients when you can make your own that are fully organic and contain highly beneficial local microbials that boost the plants medicinal properties. Bought nutrients are expensive and create dependency as most destroy the soil's natural balance and so you have to keep using them.
All points considered, it is obvious that regulations must enable the mass outdoor cultivation of landrace strains by small to medium scale farmers and traditional healers. The cost of production is relatively low and growing naturally enables medicine security, the generation of revenue and the growth and development of a healthy local industry. However, South America is coming online and in a few short years it will be difficult for South Africa to compete with their prices for flower and end products.It is imperative that deregulation is urgently prioritised to ensure maximum growth of the industry and enable the supply of high-quality landrace cannabis medicines to local and international markets.