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MARKET READINESSPART 3Photo Credit: 420 Photography SACian McClellandA key consideration for market readiness is increasing public access to high quality cannabis medicines that are cultivated and manufactured locally. We currently have a restrictive regulatory framework that makes access very difficult and is in need of urgent change.
Access? According to the constitutional court we are allowed to grow our own flower to smoke, bake or consume to our taste, but many people do not have enough space to grow…or know how to grow well.
But flower is not the issue as it is readily available through an effective network of retailers across the country … from parking lots to the newly established cannabis clubs, ‘health & wellness’ shops and online stores, getting your hands on decent flower is relatively easy. Best to grow your own, but if you can’t or you run out sooner than expected and have to buy flower, then ask the right questions about quality. Access to high quality cannabis medicine made from extracted oil is a very different story to flower because the cannabinoids and toxins become very concentrated in the oil.
The equipment and skills necessary to perform high quality extractions and production of oil-based cannabis medicines in South Africa is very limited. There are some good ‘gangapreneurs’ emerging, but in general, the industry needs to pay more attention to the safety and quality standards required for commercial medicine. The regulation of cannabis is highly controversial, but it in the interest of public safety it is necessary that all commercially available cannabis medicines, especially those made from oil, be regulated to test for toxins and to ensure quality and consistency.
There is groundswell of public interest, but very few points of access to buy quality local cannabis medicines. Regulations need to be relaxed to allow dispensaries to buy and sell quality cannabis flower, medicines and other products. This will kick start the local industry, but what else will increase public access to locally made cannabis medicines, especially in areas where there are no dispensaries? In these uncertain times, how do communities ensure their medicine security?
There is a national network of functioning agricultural co-ops and community based Indigenous Knowledge Systems organisations and they are the perfect vehicles to implement cannabis projects. They will ensure medicine security and provide income from the sale of excess products. Traditional doctors and healers should play a significant role to increase public access to cannabis in all of its healing forms, dispensing cannabis in any way they see fit for their patients. Market readiness is not only about developing commercial markets, but also about ensuring medicine security and community access to low-cost, high-quality cannabis that works. That is how we build a local industry with a solid foundation that enables sustainable socio-economic development.