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High expectations: What the cannabis industry could off...



High expectations: What the marijuana industry has to offer for South Africa’s budding entrepreneurs

The ‘High Puppeteers’ perform at the Cannabis Convention Expo in 2019. (Photo: Justin Lee Photography)

International companies are growing their presence in the country as the seedling sector ripens.

‘There are countless opportunities for budding cannabis entrepreneurs and for people looking to find work in the cannabis industry,” says the director of the Cannabis Expo, Silas Howarth. All puns aside, those growing the little green plant say business and financial opportunities abound.

The Constitutional Court decriminalised forms of personal consumption of cannabis in South Africa in 2018 and the government has proposed a draft National Cannabis Master Plan this year. The market is valued around a potential R28-billion according to the Department of Agriculture, Land Reform and Rural Development, with a possibility of about 10,000 to 25,000 jobs being created.

Yet the enthusiasm for this industry is not entirely new. Howarth says that when they launched the expo in 2018 the team was surprised at how big and broad the industry was already, and it has grown exponentially from there. This year’s expo is bringing more than 100 businesses to Sandton on 18-21 November, with the Cape Town counterpart planned for next year March.

Howarth says the boom is not only in local business but in international investors and funders looking to support both small and commercial scale operations or recruit for jobs in the industry.

Exhibitors will be at the Cannabis Expo in Sandton from 18-21 November. (Photo: Justin Lee Photography)

“Global cannabis companies have also woken up to the reality that Southern Africa has the potential to supply the world with quality cannabis and cannabis products at competitive prices, and are pouring millions of dollars into cannabis projects in South Africa,” he says.

For instance, international medicinal cannabis crowd-growing platform JuicyFields is currently expanding its presence in South Africa. It connects individual investors with licensed producers and distributors.

JuicyField’s Clifford Giesenow says: “Globally cannabis business is huge, and in South Africa millions of rands are pouring into the country as this seedling industry moves from pre-dawn to sunrise.”

Duren Munsami, founder and CEO of NudleBox, a platform for jobs and training in the cannabis industry, says: “Most people believed that working with marijuana was a shady side job or a secret grow operation until the last decade or so, but how times have changed since then.”

Munsami explains that popular positions in the industry include head growers who manage cultivation teams, budtenders who assist customers of medical or recreational cannabis dispensaries, and lab extractors, who process and test hemp products in  laboratories.

He says now is a great time to get involved. “Companies that establish their products and services during this period will benefit from gaining market share and position themselves as key players witnessing significant growth over the next few years.”

Nick Verster, director and founder of NVJ Quality Products, says the industries around hemp or cannabis include textiles, clothing, plumbing, furniture and various medicines.

Cornel van der Watt (left) from White Lion Holdings at the Cannabis Convention 2019. (Photo: Justin Lee Photography)

He says there are great opportunities, but he is more sceptical.

“This is one of the few industries that opens doors to so many opportunities, but yet again foreign investors are withdrawing due to low trust and high risk in our industry which comes from both local individuals as well as regulations blocking us all from expanding overall.”

Verster hopes for greater boundaries and understanding between different parts of the industry,  such as the recreational and health sides. However, the future seems expansive for the variety of products linked to cannabis. Munsami says the local cannabis market is expected to grow by a third between 2019 and 2023. DM168

This story first appeared in our weekly Daily Maverick 168 newspaper which is available for R25 at Pick n Pay, Exclusive Books and airport bookstores. For your nearest stockist, please click here.


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  • There is a bit too much hype about the transformational ability of cannabis and help for unlocking Southern Africa’s horticulture industry. But one thing is for sure, unless there are rules for tracking and tracing put in place immediately, it will be governed by the mafia and the Govt won’t see much tax revenues, and the northern hemisphere won’t get their quality assurances.

  • Nothing will happen until Parliament gets rid of its ingrained prejudices against cannabis and legalises the cannabis trade and puts in a similar legal framework that controls alcohol. That will allow its trade, manufacture, home production and control of a far less harmful substance than alcohol. A no-brainer one would think.

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