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The medical cannabis industry in Africa

Cannabis crowd growing platform, Juicyfields explain how African countries have come up with favourable legislation that supports the cultivation, processing, and distribution of medical cannabis.

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For centuries, cannabis has been used by African indigenous communities for a variety of cultural and spiritual rituals while still being utilised as an effective therapeutic agent.

Unfortunately, the crop has been through a murky legalisation history in Africa and other continents. It wasn’t until the 21st century that some African countries began to view cannabis beyond the purported harm it bears. The global cannabis renaissance shone a light on its medicinal value and the economic potential it holds.

With this, the stigma associated with cannabis is slowly fading away. More African countries have come up with favourable legislation that supports the cultivation, processing, and distribution of medical cannabis. The global demand for medical cannabis is on the rise, and countries like South Africa, Zimbabwe, Morocco, Ghana, Eswatini, and Rwanda are at the forefront of meeting this demand.

According to data from United Nations, Africa produces about 10,000 metric tonnes of cannabis annually. In 2018, the African Regional Hemp and Cannabis Report indicated that Africa’s total cannabis value totalled 11 per cent of the global market at 37.3 billion dollars. This piece takes a closer look at the medical cannabis industry in different African countries. It mainly focuses on the changing regulations, research, and various treatment applications.

Africa: A woman holding a cannabis leaf

South Africa

South Africa has legalised medical marijuana for all health conditions. Through a licensed physician, the patients can request cannabis to help alleviate their health-related issues. The application is made online by the physician. Once approved, a registered pharmacist dispenses the cannabis.

S.A is the first African country to establish a state-of-the-art research facility that focuses on establishing and providing research-based, proven approaches to cannabis and cannabis-centred therapies. The facility uses advanced technology and equipment to carry out its role of receiving, identifying, and processing cannabis, analyzing the end product and conducting research and development.

The country is a pioneer in the legalisation of cannabis for medical and private use in Africa. The laws governing the crop are lenient, which paves the way for tons of research and economic opportunities for farmers and investors alike.

Rwanda

Rwanda allows the cultivation, distribution, and medical use of cannabis. On 28th June 2021, the country legalised cannabis prescription by qualified and licensed medical practitioners. The law does not specify the ailments screened for a patient to get approval to use medical cannabis. However, it insists on informing the patient on medical cannabis to allow them to make informed decisions.

Additionally, only accredited doctors by the ministry of Health can prescribe cannabis. Anyone handling cannabis beyond the scope of law stands to face prosecution in accordance with the law. These measures are aimed at preventing the misuse and abuse of the drug.

Plans to enforce the law are currently underway. Prescribing and exportation of medical cannabis in Rwanda is expected to begin within the next 12 months.

Morocco

On May 26th, 2016, Morocco legalised cannabis for medical, industrial, and cosmetic use. This is one of the biggest global producers of cannabis and hashish/kif. In 2020, a study estimated that the country produced about 700 tonnes of the crop. The law also stipulates that only patients with certain conditions can get access to medical cannabis.

Medical and industrial farmers need to be citizens of the country and be registered owners of the land they plan to cultivate. If the land is not theirs, they will require consent from the owner, allowing them to use the piece of land. The last requirement is that the farmers will need to be members of a cooperative.

The passed bill includes the setup of an ad-hoc agency that will act as a supervising body for anything cannabis-related in the country. This includes relevant authorisations and ensuring farmers are compliant with the law.

Since the legalisation, a prominent Moroccan laboratory has embarked on a series of studies to investigate the medical and pharmacological application of cannabis and other aromatic plants.

Zimbabwe

In 2018, Zimbabwe passed a law that permitted the use of cannabis for medical and research reasons. However, the terms they initially stipulated were considered too harsh, and the fees were exorbitant, which locked out many local farmers and discouraged investors. In May 2020, the government revised the requirements and developed a favourable set of policies and operational conditions.

Investors are now allowed to own 100 per cent of their investments and set up facilities across the country without restrictions. Previously, the investors were required to co-own their assets with the Zimbabwean government or its entities and work within set locations. Additionally, the investors are given an Investment Stability Agreement (ISA) that assures them of security.

Business opportunities in Africa

The medical cannabis industry is a sector that promises job creation and numerous economic opportunities. Additionally, the legalisation of the crop allows patients in dire need of alternative treatment to access it easily and legally. In Africa, the myths and stigma associated with cannabis are slowly being replaced with scientifically-backed evidence.

Consequently, more people, governments, and entities are more welcoming to the cash crop and the benefits its promises.

Innovative business models such as Crowdgrowing, a system that connects cannabis producers with people from around the world willing to finance their projects, are a game-changer for an industry that is blooming.

Leading crowd growing platforms like JuicyFields’, are making medical cannabis accessible for more and more people.

You too can join the platform and start making profits with every harvest.

Africa: A banner announcing collaborative work

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New fully digital cannabis dispensary launches in UK

It aims to streamline the process through which  cannabis patients can access their medicine.

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New fully digital cannabis dispensary launches in UK

A new fully digital medical cannabis pharmacy aims to improve the dispensing experience for UK patients.

A new digital dispensing solution has launched in the UK, with the aim of streamlining the process through which cannabis patients can access their medicine.

Through the new system, patients are able to schedule delivery to their home or office, with a 120-minute delivery service in London and Birmingham and next-day delivery across the UK.

Akanda subsidiary, CanMart, has partnered with digital pharmacy infrastructure Phlo Connect and Cellen Life Sciences to bring the project to life.

The process will be increasingly seamless for patients in the near future as Phlo Connect, Cellen and CanMart build additional digital interconnections, Akanda said.

Osteoarthritis: A banner advert for the medical cannabis clinics

Tej Virk, CEO of Akanda, said: “Akanda is committed to expanding access to high-quality products for anyone in need, and that is qualified in the United Kingdom, a growing market for medical cannabis.

“Phlo Connect and Cellen are the ideal partners to make this happen, combining the UK’s first fully digital pharmacy with a digital dispensing model that is easy to use, secure, and real-time.

“In the nascent UK medical cannabis market, patients currently suffer from excess friction as the prescription process, and last-mile delivery is disjointed.

“We firmly believe that our solution is the best way to satisfy patients and get our 1P and 3P-supplied medical cannabis in their hands quickly and conveniently, which will greatly improve the patient experience.”

New fully digital cannabis dispensary launches in UK

The partnership with Phlo Connect builds on CanMart’s existing partnership with Cellen, a health tech company that provides treatment to chronic pain patients through Leva Clinic, as well as through partners including the NHS, and Boots UK.

The Leva Clinic, which is licensed and regulated by the Care Quality Commission, is one of the first fully digital pain clinics in the UK.

Cellen is also a medical cannabis supplier to Project Twenty21, the large-scale medical cannabis observational study monitored by Drug Science that aims to improve access to medical cannabis.

Adam Hunter, CCO of Phlo Connect commented: “We believe partnering with CanMart and Cellen will be a game-changer for medicinal cannabis patients here in the UK.

“By integrating with both CanMart and Cellen via our API-driven pharmacy platform, we believe that this partnership is the first truly end-to-end digital experience for medicinal cannabis patients in the UK.”

He added: “Our patients require access to new high-quality products without the friction and hassle of traditional dispensing services. This partnership is another example of our continuing efforts to build on our national, established relationships with the wider pharmaceutical community in innovative ways.

“We believe that CanMart’s access to high quality products as well as Phlo Connect’s extensive capabilities in dispensing will go a long way to helping our service to our patients.”

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CiiTECH celebrates five years with five days of CBD offers

CiiTECH’s five-year birthday is a pivotal moment, the company said.

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ciitech

Cannabis healthcare company CiiTECH celebrates its fifth birthday and reflects on a turbulent half-decade for the CBD industry.

CiiTECH’s five-year birthday is a pivotal moment, the company said. After what has been one of the most turbulent times for the industry, the firm has achieved six months of stability. With new crypto projects on the horizon and new markets on the cards, the company is gearing up for a period of growth.

CBD is a tough industry to be in right now but that has never stopped CiiTECH CEO and founder, Clifton Flack, from driving the business through regulatory issues and the challenges of an increasingly saturated market.

“When we started the business in 2017 the market was approaching the peak of interest and excitement. Since then, alongside the hundreds of brands that have been born to compete with us, we’ve also faced monumental regulatory pressures and flip-flopping,” Flack said.

“We’re still here though, independent and with a bright future ahead as the coming year ahead brings settled regulations.”

After a stormy start to the year, the FSA delivered on their promise to roll out a framework by which products can be set on a supervised pathway to novel food authorisation. The market is now more difficult than ever to penetrate for new and emerging brands, however it gives established UK CBD companies like CiiTECH an advantage over international companies attempting to penetrate the UK market.

“In parallel, the industry and our peers have had a two year pandemic, Brexit supply chain disruptions and now a cost of living crisis set to put all previous volatilities to shame,” Flack added.

“Now more than ever, cannabis healthcare companies need to take our time, avoid the panic and focus on delivering quality products behind trusted brands that are built for the long term.”

Recently, CiiTECH investigated a stock market listing on the London Stock Exchange but the IPO did not come to fruition.

“As the CEO, I had to make an impossible decision,” Flack said.

“Amongst other things, the timing was just not right. Consumer sentiment and demands are volatile and we found the essence of our company getting lost in bureaucracy at a time when it should have been front of mind.

Yesterday, CiiTECH launched five promotions over five days to celebrate the anniversary of the company.

“As a revenue-driven business, CiiTECH would not be in the position it is today without its army of loyal Provacan customers, so we’re giving back to them the best way we know-how.

“With five days’ worth of promos and freebies to mark five years of success. Our Friday promo emails have become somewhat legendary among our customers but we have never done anything like this before.”

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GPs should prescribe medical cannabis, says industry review

A new review has recommended the roll out of a national trial, permitting GPs to prescribe medical cannabis.

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GPs should prescribe medical cannabis, says industry review
Polling showed strong support for allowing all doctors to prescribe cannabis as a treatment. 

A new UK report has recommended the roll out of a national trial permitting GPs to prescribe medical cannabis.

GPs should be allowed to prescribe medical cannabis in the UK, according to a new review published on Monday 27 June.

Industry experts have recommended the roll-out of a national trial, which would see GPs permitted to prescribe cannabis-based medicinal products, alongside specialist consultants. 

The recommendation was published as part of the Hodges Review, commissioned by The Centre for Medicinal Cannabis (CMC) and the Association for the Cannabinoid Industry (ACI).

The report, which aims to set out how the UK can be a world-leader in cannabinoid innovation, is set to be launched today (27 June) with a speech by MP George Freeman, the minister for science, research and innovation.

US research programme studies cannabinoids in ovarian cancer

GP prescribing 

In the UK, GPs may prescribe as part of a ‘Shared Care’ agreement, under the direction of a doctor on the specialist register, but they are not permitted to initiate treatment themselves.

According to polling data, collected for the review from 1,500 individuals across the UK, between the 9-13th June, 2022, there was strong support for allowing all doctors, not just specialists, to prescribe cannabis as a treatment. 

Two-thirds of respondents (65 per cent) believe GPs should be allowed to prescribe medicinal cannabis and more than a third said they would trust their GP to prescribe it to them.

Among 20 recommendations made by the report, the authors suggest an “opt-in model” which would give GPs the option to consent to prescribing cannabis-based medicines and participating in data collection to help inform future guidelines.

In more than 50 countries worldwide where medical cannabis has been made legal GPs make up the majority of prescribers. 

A survey of over 1,000 GPs, published last year by the Primary Care Cannabis Network, found that there was a willingness from UK doctors to prescribe too. 

Almost a quarter (24 percent) said they would be willing to take on the role of prescribing and overseeing medical cannabis treatments and just under three quarters (73 per cent) were open-minded about having a more active role in the field.

Read more: How GPs could open up access to medical cannabis

Quoted in the Hodges Review, Hazel Neavyn-Neita, medical information lead, Althea Life UK and Ireland said: “The cost of supplying product to the UK is roughly 3.2 times higher than supplying product to Australia.

“Allowing GPs to prescribe and widening patient access may increase sales. It would also reduce the costs of consultations for private patients since they could see a GP rather than a specialist consultant. If volumes increase, companies will be able to reduce the cost of manufacture and shipping which will reduce the cost to the patient.” 

Deepak Anand, principal of ASDA Consultancy Services, added: “By not allowing all GPs to prescribe, we’re effectively putting people into the black market, because people are going to try to access this whichever way they can… That is a serious and abject policy failure from a public health perspective by the government. Once we start to see GPs prescribing, you will see a real opening up of the industry in the UK.”

The report also highlighted the need to “take forward commitments” for coordinated data collection, suggesting that GP prescriptions could involve patient enrolment in a national registry to help gather real-world evidence.

Further recommendations include consulting with patient groups and police forces to introduce Home Office guidance for frontline officers to verify patients who have a valid prescription, and creating a single formulary of all available products in the UK to support doctors in prescribing with up-to-date information.

Attitudes towards medical cannabis 

Among those polled, there was broad support for cannabis as a medical treatment.

One in five respondents said they personally know someone whose health has benefited from medicinal cannabis and 63 per cent would be supportive if a family member was taking it to address a health condition.

Only eight per cent said they would be “somewhat” or “very” opposed to it and almost one in seven people admitted that they have used cannabis for “health reasons” themselves. 

Of those who had used cannabis for medicinal reasons (whether prescribed by a doctor or not), 90 per cent experienced positive benefits, including a fifth whose symptoms were “completely resolved”. 

There was also recognition of a need to make cannabis medicines more accessible for patients in the UK, with 59 per cent of those polled believing that the government should help lower the cost of cannabis supplied by private clinics so more people can afford it.

A large majority (64 per cent) of respondents believe the government should do more to support scientific research into cannabis in the UK.

CBD vs Medical cannabis

Although public awareness of medicinal cannabis was lower than of CBD, the report found evidence to suggest that public levels of trust are generally higher. 

When asked about CBD products, the most concerning thing for 43 per cent of respondents was if the product was synthetic and not from natural ingredients, or if the product was not tested for purity. 

Those hesitant to try CBD said they would be most likely to try a product if there was more public information about CBD and how to take it and if the government made it clear that CBD was legal.

The report also claims that where young people are more open to the use of CBD, older people are more likely to report positive views towards medicinal cannabis.

By contrast, young people were more likely to think that medicinal cannabis is “not a serious clinical treatment”.

A total of 59 per cent of respondents believe that in 10 years time the medical benefits of cannabis would be more widespread and accepted.

You can download the full report here

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