WATCH | Weeding out the good from the bad at Cape Town's cannabis expo
Cannabis for dogs may seem like a barking mad idea, but if From the Barkery is to be believed, its handmade CBD-infused treats make for happy pets.
The company is one of more than 100 exhibitors at this weekend's Cannabis Expo in Cape Town, where stalls showcase the plant’s medicinal uses, recreational and lifestyle benefits and cultivation tips.
Hemp clothing, cannabis foodstuffs (including sweets), exotic smoking paraphernalia and cannabis oils and personal body products are all on display.
"I think we have a healthy mix between the consumer expo, a trade show and a convention," said expo director Silas Howarth.
Lectures during the four-day event, which ends on Sunday, cover topics such as the health benefits of CBD oils, how dogs differ to people regarding cannabis, how to infuse beverages with CBD, how to create hemp products and SA's laws on cannabis.
Ceri Phillips, of From the Barkery, said her interest in CBD treatment for pets began with a lung tumor diagnosis for her beloved black labrador Berkley.
When he was given just a few weeks to live, she turned to CBD oil to ease his discomfort – and saw "such a massive improvement".
Berkley went on to live another 10 months before dying last September. By then, Phillips had begun to share what she was learning from making the treats, working with chemical engineers to refine the output, and her pet-treat company was born.
The cannabis industry has boomed since the Constitutional Court legalised the personal use and growth of cannabis in September 2018. According to Howarth, the number of exhibitors at the event has doubled since the first expo in Pretoria.
While using and growing cannabis for personal use is now allowed, public possession and trading in the plant is still illegal. This has forced businesses and entrepreneurs interested in the cannabis industry to capitalise on a loophole in the law.
Although it's illegal to trade the plant, Howarth said, "that doesn’t mean you can’t grow from it or extract from it, and that’s how these businesses are operating".
Even former model Roxy Louw has entered the cannabis industry through pop-up events and weekend retreats she calls CannaYoga. "We start the class with a plant medicine ceremony," she said.
Some of the exhibitors at the expo have been part of the industry for decades and foresee huge growth.
"We anticipated it and we set ourselves up to be one of the biggest guys in the industry," said Cornel van der Watt, owner, CEO and founder of White Lion Seed Company and Complete Cannabis Solutions.
The surge of interest and investment in the cannabis industry has potential economic benefits for SA, according to Howarth and Van der Watt.
"Even industry insiders, cannabis industry people, have been shocked at how broad this industry is," Howarth said.
"After the Constitutional Court ruling in September everyone was suddenly talking about cannabis. It's amazing how people's perceptions have shifted."
The change in legislation had made people more open to talking about cannabis, and many wanted to grow it, he said - leading him to launch starter kits for beginners.
Competition, said Van der Watt, is not a big factor as it was a supportive industry. "We all know each other worldwide," he said. "It doesn’t matter where these guys are from, they know they can trust each other, they can back each other up."
Police in Cape Town marked the opening of the Cannabis Expo by boasting about the arrest of a 31-year-old southern suburbs man in possession of cannabis and cannabis oil. Spokesperson Lt-Col Andrè Traut said the police searched a house in Kirstenhof after a tip-off.
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