Marijuana meets mozzarella and oils wheels of commerce
Not-So-Plain Mary Jane is one of the pizzas launched this week by Col'Cacchio, an event that normally wouldn't merit a mention. But it's another slice of a burgeoning portfolio of products popping up with cannabis in them. Silas Howarth, a director of The Cannabis Expo, says there are many potential cannabis entrepreneurs. "We've found, from a business perspective, a big percentage of our visitors are not there just to buy products, but to find out how to get into the cannabis industry."Howarth ran his first cannabis expo last year in Menlyn, Pretoria - it attracted about 15,000 visitors and about 52 exhibitor stands, which were snapped up within about six weeks. "It was one of the fastest-selling debut expos in SA," says Howarth. In April, a second expo was held in Cape Town, and by that stage interest had doubled. There were 110 exhibitor stands and more than 18,000 visitors. Two months later, another expo was staged in Durban. Now Howarth and his team are preparing for their biggest expo yet, in the Sandton Convention Centre in November. He says there will be 150 to 200 stands and more than half the space has already been sold. "The cannabis industry has exploded since its launch."Howarth says it's hard to estimate what the local industry is worth, because it's so new. "There are so many different elements to cannabis - it's not just about recreational use. It's amazing to see how attitudes and perceptions about cannabis have changed rapidly in a fairly short space of time."Last year, the Constitutional Court ruled it was legal for people to grow and use cannabis in their homes, and, since then, multiple businesses have started to pop up. "It's not just the diversity of exhibitors but the broad range of visitors . young, old, and many interested in the vast health benefits of cannabis."People claim that CBD [cannabidiol, one of the chemical components of marijuana] offers extensive health benefits for humans and animals ... it doesn't make you high, but it can be used as a relaxant, to help you sleep. "A lot of people are using it as part of their treatment plans for everything from cancer to different autoimmune diseases. It certainly doesn't work for everyone . but we hear plenty of really compelling stories about what can be achieved with CBD." CBD was de-scheduled only a few weeks ago in SA. As long as it's under a certain dosage, it can be bought and sold just like, for example, spirulina, as if it's a food supplement. "It's blown open the potential uses of CBD," says Howarth.The products and businesses keep coming. There's NudleBox, an online jobs portal connecting candidates with job vacancies in the burgeoning cannabis industry. Canna Coffee delivers CBD-infused coffee to your door and provides franchise carts, which are proving popular. Cannabis Oil Research is appointing agents to be fully trained in advising clients on what oils to use for which disorders, ranging from acne, cancer and dieting to body conditioning. And, of course, there's beer.But back to the pizza. Col'Cacchio obtains its CBD from Africanpure, which was recently bought by Goodleaf, which has opened Africa's first "premium CBD store" in Cape Town's city centre. The company will also be launching beverages infused with African botanicals.The two cannabis-inspired pizzas, the Green Goddess and the Not-So-Plain Mary Jane, will be drizzled with Africanpure CBD oil. Customers can also order CBD oil as an extra on any other dish for an additional R25. Meanwhile, Africanpure has expanded its range to include CBD oil for pets. A report on the African cannabis market by Prohibition Partners, an organisation that provides information and analysis about the global cannabis industry, says Africa's climate, affordable land and low-cost labour offer "enormous opportunities in a market which could exceed $7.1bn [about R100bn] by 2023". Cannabis is already widely grown across the continent, with production standing at about 38,000 tons.