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.
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 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.
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.
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.
Study: States with full legal access show fewer registered medical cannabis patients
“If true, this could have implications for public health and policy,” say researchers.
Study shows U.S states where cannabis is legal for recreational purposes have experienced a decrease in patients registering for medical cannabis programmes.
The study on different US states, published in the International Drug Journal, revealed that numbers of registered and active medical cannabis consumers increased while it was not legal for recreational use.
Researchers in Arizona took data from the medical cannabis registry from two dozen states between 2013 and 2020. These are mandatory registries that record the number of medical cannabis patients. They analysed the data to see if there were any changes around the times that recreational legalisation was introduced.
There are currently 19 states in the US that have legalised recreational cannabis including New Jersey, Vermont, Arizona and New York. However, more states have medical cannabis programs although some are still not operational. Some states such as Colorado have had recreational access since 2012, the year before the study was started.
Medical cannabis patients
The results confirmed that medical cannabis cardholders increased during times when recreational use was not legal. It then subsequently decreased when it became legal.
It also revealed an increase of 380 patients per 100,000 people per year when just medical cannabis was legal. This corresponded to a decrease of 100 patients per 100,000 after recreational cannabis was allowed. The researchers noted that active registered active male patients decreased faster than women. In states where only medical cannabis was legal, the older age groups (35 or older), increased faster.
They also found that in three states with medical-only use, the results showed significant increases in enrollment from 2016 to 2020 across white, African-American and Hispanic patients.
The researchers wrote: “There is speculation that enrollment in U.S. state medical cannabis programs differs depending on whether adult recreational cannabis use is legal. If true, this could have implications for public health and policy.”
“Findings suggest that recreational cannabis legalisation is associated with decreasing enrollment in medical cannabis programs, particularly for males.”
Latin American cannabis clinic Zerenia arrives in UK – promising patients more ‘affordable’ access
The clinic has recently joined Project Twenty21 with the promise of making medical cannabis more accessible.
Latin American medical cannabis clinic, Zerenia, has launched in the UK, with a bid to improve patient access as it joins Project Twenty21.
The clinic also offers competitive costs, with consultation fees at £80.
The clinic’s three doctors will initially prescribe for chronic pain and mental health, with the majority of patients so far seeking treatment for indications such as anxiety, ADHD, PTSD and insomnia.
Zerenia, which already has 14 clinics across Latin America, has treated around 14,000 patients with medical cannabis, and according to Zerenia’s UK clinical operations director, Freeda Solliman, mental health is the predominant indication prescribed for.
Many of these patients now get their prescriptions funded via private insurers, a model which the clinic now hopes to replicate in the UK.
“In Latin America we’ve built a body of evidence there to support private insurers to fund medical cannabis treatment,” Solliman told Cannabis Health.
“We’ve seen about 14,000 patients who have been treated with medical cannabis and a large number of those actually get their prescriptions funded by private insurers. That’s the kind of model that you want to bring here.”
Zerenia has partnered with T21, which subsidises the cost of prescriptions, to help build the growing body of evidence for the safety and efficacy of medical cannabis.
“Our goals are quite well aligned, we want to build the evidence and we want to make medical cannabis more affordable for patients,” continued Solliman.
“We want to work to encourage the NHS first and foremost, but also private insurers to fund at least part of the costs involved in being treated with medical cannabis.”
She added: “We did our research to understand some of the bottlenecks in the industry and how hard it is for some patients to go through the process, so we wanted to support patients through that and try to offer them more of a seamless experience.”
Zerenia is now taking on new patients who wish to join T21, or those who may want to try a different clinic.
Initial consultations for new patients are priced at £80, for those transfering from a different clinic, £40. Find more information here
CiiTECH to launch medicinal cannabis range Provacan THC in Israel
Israeli patients will have access to the first Provacan THC oil in January 2022, followed by Brazilian and British patients.
CiiTECH and Cannassure have announced a major deal to develop and market Provacan THC products for medical cannabis use in Israel.
It marks CiiTECH’s long-awaited move into medicinal cannabis.
In addition to offering established consumer CBD brands, CiiTECH’s flagship brand Provacan is considered one of the most respected in the UK.
Clifton Flack, CEO and founder of CiiTECH, intends to bring Provacan’s reputation for quality and consistency to the troubled Israeli medical cannabis market.
“CiiTECH is unique in its approach to the CBD wellness and medicinal cannabis markets. We built an international reputation as a market-leading CBD company by producing pharmacy trusted CBD oil tinctures and selling them as food supplements before making our move into THC. Our intention is to bring these International standards to the Israeli market,” says Flack.
“As a UK company with strong roots in Israel, CiiTECH is well-positioned to make its THC debut and there is no better place to do so than in Israel, the epicentre of global cannabis research.”
“Cannassure is known for producing high-grade medical cannabis in Israel with an advanced indoor-aeroponic growing system and state-of-the-art extraction.”
The collaboration with CiiTECH, a leading company in the field of cannabis research and marketing and owner of the leading brand Provacan, is an important step in the field of cannabis oils for us, an area that enjoys significant growth among patients who do not want to consume inflorescence cannabis. We are confident that this collaboration will bring value for us, for CiiTECH and for cannabis patients in Israel, and we believe that it will help us conquer a more significant share of the cannabis oil market in Israel,” said Ran Amir, Cannassure CEO.
As part of its business strategy, CiiTECH seeks and collaborates with best-of-breed cannabis providers up and down the supply chain in multiple geographies. With this agreement, CiiTECH continues to demonstrate its effective business strategy, commitment to quality assurance, and speed of entry into the market that the industry has grown to expect from CiiTECH.
With the help of Cannassure, CiiTECH will help reform, standardise, educate and establish quality, consistency, and reliability in the Israeli medical cannabis market. In order to achieve this goal, CiiTECH is developing a hybrid solution in which a superior quality product is offered to patients and a unique professional enrichment program is offered to help doctors and pharmacists support patients on a deeper level.
Around 80 per cent of Israel’s 100,000 licensed medical cannabis users smoke, rather than using tinctures. The biggest complaint in those groups is the lack of quality and consistency. It is CiiTECH’s mission to show these users how much better tinctures are than smoking. Provacan ambassadors and users will benefit from comprehensive education courses provided by CiiTECH as part of this re-education so they will feel more confident and better supported while using CiiTECH products.
“As cannabis market experts and our involvement in the cannabis ecosystem in Israel, we understand the nature of the demand and the gaps in the Israeli market. Our new THC tincture will revolutionise the lives of many patients who are currently suffering from inconsistencies in the medical cannabis supply chain, and it will be made to the same strict UK and European guidelines as our current products,” concluded Flack.
Israeli patients will have access to the first Provacan THC oil in January 2022, followed soon by Brazilian and British patients.
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