South Africa

SONA2020: Ramaphosa's cannabis plan plants a brighter future

DURBAN - Last week’s State of the Nation Address (SONA) delivered by President Cyril Ramaphosa listed a number of encouraging initiatives to be undertaken by government in an effort to stimulate the country’s sluggish economy. 

One particular point raised in the President’s address focused on the future of cannabis in South Africa with Ramaphosa said, "This year we will open up and regulate the commercial use of hemp products, providing opportunities for small-scale farmers; and formulate policy on the use of cannabis products for medicinal purposes, to build this industry in line with global trends. The regulatory steps will soon be announced by the relevant ministers".

This announcement has been the source of much excitement and relief for companies like 3Sixty BioMedicine and other leaders in the pharmaceutical cannabis industry who prior to SONA worried about the uncertainty surrounding SA’s current legislation that gave the industry only until May to test the waters with low dose CBD based products. 

According to 3Sixty BioMedicine’s strategic technology partner, Tautomer, the leap of faith and vision that 3Sixty’s leadership showed by investing in the development of CBD based products that saw the launch of Cape Sativa Everyday Cream earlier this year, has paid off. 

"The future for cannabis in general after last week’s SONA is much brighter and has opened up a much broader discussion for the industry as a whole but with particular focus on medicinal applications. The sentiment within 3Sixty BioMedicine is a positive one and the latest endorsement by government speaks to the foresight of 3Sixty’s leadership to play in the medicinal cannabis space by developing a range of  products that expand therapeutic options to address healthcare related needs for South African consumers," said Martin Magwaza, MD of Tautomer.

With government now set to open up and regulate the commercial use of hemp and cannabis products, Ramaphosa revealed that much of the plan is centered on providing opportunities for small-scale farmers. This in itself is another positive for 3Sixty BioMedicine, and ultimately South Africa, as this locally based company has their sights set on producing and manufacturing their CBD based products in South Africa rather than continuing to source finished goods and bulk raw material from abroad. 

"At 3Sixty, we didn’t want to wait until local producers had their ducks in a row with permits and accreditation, so we leveraged on existing capabilities internationally. With our Cape Sativa range having launched earlier this year and a number of other CBD based products almost ready to go to market, we opted to move ahead with international sourcing so we can at least supply the product into the market until such time that we can source locally and not compromise on the quality which currently meets specifications according to international standards. Ideally as a local business, we want to eventually contribute to growing employment opportunities in South Africa and aid the government in reducing levels of unemployment – particularly for the youth – and the President’s announcement last night brings us one step closer in achieving that," said 3Sixty BioMedicine’s Chief Executive, Walter Mbatha.

With cannabis having been outlawed previously, it makes sense that currently even the most prominent licensed producers of cannabis products in South Africa are internationally sourcing finished goods and bulk raw material resulting in no legal cannabis products to date containing the SA stamp of approval on them. The sentiment by 3Sixty BioMedicine is that this will eventually change thanks to the recent announcement by President Ramaphosa.

Magwaza also added that recently there has been a noticeable increase in interest by local  research institutes and clinical scientists in South Africa about expanding on the evidence-based research for clinical applications of cannabis products. 

"Medicine in general is evidence based and until now there has not been enough investment and attention given to cannabinoids and the many potential health benefits and treatments that can be developed to address a myriad of medical conditions. I do believe that President Ramaphosa’s pledge by government to support the industry will see an even more dramatic uptake and increase in the exploration of cannabis for applications by the medical community. In the UK and US cannabis and cannabinoids in general have garnered some clinical merit and there are a few indications of medical uses that have resulted in products being registered there for epilepsy in children, Multiple Sclerosis as well as for treating nausea for HIV and cancer patients among other treatments for various conditions. I believe that it’s crucial for South Africa as a country to get behind the cannabis industry as a potential economic driver and those enormous opportunities exist even beyond the medicinal application. Hemp as an example  has been proven to broad  applications in the industrial sector that includes the production of fibres used for clothing, construction and packaging – to name a few," concluded Magwaza.

Ultimately, it would be a major step forward if South Africa could position themselves as a global leader with the sciences producing world-class solutions in this space. This could now be a tangible reality with Ramaphosa’s announcement of government formulating a policy in 2020 on the use of cannabis products for medicinal purposes and that this move that will put South Africa in line with global trends.

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