Verve Dynamics, a Cape Town based alternative medicines company, has announced their intention to cultivate high CBD medical cannabis under license from the government of Lesotho from as early as next month.
“Access to medicinal cannabis on the African continent has taken another major step forward today and Verve Dynamics is honoured to be the first company in Africa to have been granted regulatory approval to begin the process of growing and producing high quality cannabis extracts commercially” said Richard Davies, Managing Partner at Verve Dynamics.
Verve Dynamics has been producing plant based alternative medicines for years and already boasts a diverse product base. Adding a medicinal cannabis product to their line-up seemed only natural and the company has already commissioned a molecular still (a fancy extractor) explicitly designed for cannabis volatiles. Beyond their experience in nutraceuticals and phytomedicines, Verve Dynamics is licensed under GMP and associated standards, stacking their hand against recent regulatory recommendations in South Africa.
While this is practically the sum of the story, some might wonder how Verve Dynamics got this right, or at least why it matters that they did. For those unaware, here is a brief summary of why you should care:
How does a South African company produce a medical cannabis product when no official guidelines have been set? Yes, Verve Dynamics will not be cultivating in SA, but then how do they intend to service a local market or international market? (Which they have claimed) Further, how did they get this right and why haven’t I heard of Verve Dynamics before?
Well the gig is up, the joke’s on us and the MCC gave fair warning as early as November 2016. While the majority of South African cannabis enthusiasts were well distracted by the possibility of all medical cannabis they could grow, all the “healing” they could achieve and not to mention the “donations”, businessmen were looking at the lesser interesting part of the announcement.
“The necessary procedures for approval of the importation of suitable cannabis products for medicinal use by patients with defined medical conditions are already in place.”
This sentence at the bottom of the document held more weight that most attributed. There exists a beautiful hypocrisy in South Africa’s cannabis community. Many claim the international studies prove the efficacy of medical cannabis, and yet no one is willing to concede ego and use the very products used in these studies.
No, South Africans know more than an already thriving international legal market and we must be allowed the freedom to hinge our products on their research. And so few took notice of the obvious “open sesame”.
Although Verve has not announced the intention of importing a recognised international product, rather opting to grow their own, they have set themselves up as the first legally viable medical grow. Verve Dynamics was quick to spot the “in” and given the molecular still on order, one might be tempted to speculate their involvement in the recent changes in SA. Demonstrating an obvious tie, no doubt entirely legitimate respectful, to the government of Lesotho, Verve has played her hand and is now in uncharted waters: the African market.
There are few if no South Africans with a resume boasting any formalised or recognised experience in production orientated growing and processing.
For those still rowing at the back, I’ll lay it out very simply. Verve Dynamics plans to cultivate and produce a medical cannabis product, under the appropriate pharmaceutical standards, and then import the product into South Africa for research purposes and ultimately registration under the appropriate laws. Once the product is then registered in South Africa, it can be replicated and domestically cultivated. While this sounds like a long winded approach, the logic is suspiciously eloquent, Verve Dynamics played a blinder and could well produce the first commercially available African medical cannabis product.
Again, to reiterate the point of eloquence let us look at some of the easily dismissed aspects of domestic cannabis cultivation.
Firstly we must admit the lack of appropriately knowledgeable individuals to oversee these grows, processes and experiments. Despite all the clandestine claims of many a cannavist (cannabist? Google the definition), the simple fact of the matter is that there are few if no South Africans with a resume boasting any formalised or recognised experience in production orientated growing and processing. Many are quick to forget the market requirements and producing a couple kilograms a cycle is very different from a couple of tons.
Secondly, a medical product has to be a legal product and a legal product has to meet certain standards of production, instruction and use. These standards have to be derived from previous standards or pioneered. Naturally pioneering new science is tedious, expensive and slow. So building on an already standardised product seems like a far simpler (see eloquent) method. This means following predetermined rules, regulations and legislation. Hardly a gap for a burgeoning start-up.
Cannabis especially must be produced at the highest standards and if you want to please the authorities of South Africa, the cost is likely to marginalise your market.
Thirdly, and probably most importantly, one must gain a return on investment. While the world is quick to cite the figures coming out of the United States of America, the African market might not be as lucrative. We must remember international laws are still relatively prohibitive and despite the claims of a changing world attitude, the reality is that most countries permit only small amounts recognised for personal use and not shopping carts full of dank. Oregon currently has an excess of products that cannot be sold nor exported and with many more states following recreational suit, this could become a common anecdote on the ruins of the bud bubble.
Many believe the ease of cultivation and production lies accessible to all, but the reality is far harsher. Medical cannabis especially must be produced at the highest standards and if you want to please the authorities of South Africa, the cost is likely to marginalise your market. It may appear to be a lucrative market but the reality is Africa is poor and international countries aren’t buying. A kilo of GMP certified weed is not cheap and it is unlikely to fetch many buyers in a down facing economy.
So how the hell does Verve Dynamics plan to come out on top? Your guess is as good as mine, and you may well be thinking what I am thinking, but I daren’t say it…