South African cannabis companies export medical cannabis to Europe, but what about local patients?

By Luke Van der Nest

In April I discussed MG Health’s EU GMP (Good Manufacturing Practice) confirmation and what it means for the company with the iconic Refilwe Moloto, (Radio Host at Cape Talk), and she asked a question that I think is important and needs more discussion in the African cannabis community. What about patients in South Africa?

It seems that there is a consensus view that South Africa should be “unlocking the economic opportunity” of cannabis, and yet the regulations limit production to be destined for export. It’s a lose-lose situation for both producers and patients.

Producers have to jump through the numerous hoops and restrictions to develop an export pipeline, of which there are many (hoops and restrictions, not export opportunities). It’s very hard to build a business from the ground up, without a local market to service in order to generate incremental revenue. This is in itself is one of the key barriers to entry and threatens to form an exclusionary industry in SA.

But the real problem lies in the fact that medicinal grade product is being produced in the country and almost none of it is made available via doctors through safe channels to patients that need it.

The Constitutional Court has made its view clear on the matter. People in SA are free to consume cannabis in private.

Licensed producers are permitted to sell it overseas, but the patients in SA who need it can’t get access to a consistent product that has been prescribed by their doctor?

To be fair to South Africa, this is not a unique position. We see the same in many countries around the world such as Colombia, Zimbabwe and until recently, Portugal, but it just seems wrong to me.

.Luke Van der Nest is Business Development Officer at MG Health Limited, a cannabis grow company based in Lesotho.

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