• February 18th, 2020

Shangula admits medical properties in cannabis …while antiquated legislation remains detrimental to economic growth

Edgar Brandt and Alvine Kapitako

WINDHOEK - Minister of Health and Social Services Dr Kalumbi Shangula says despite the medicinal properties contained in cannabis, there are alternatives that are more potent and therefore Namibia would not suffer because of the medical properties contained in cannabis which is illegal in the country. 

Shangula in an interview with New Era this week said: “I will not talk on the law, there are people dealing with the law. I will talk on the medical aspect.  Yes, cannabis has got some medical properties, it has got many chemicals. Some of them have an effect, especially on pain but there are also side effects, like euphoria and the addictive forming tendencies.” He explained that each medical product has got its positives and negatives but it’s the positive which weighs against the negative that are taken into consideration.

“Yes, cannabis has got some medicinal properties but as you know it is not a legal substance in Namibia and because of that, it does not mean that what cannabis can do it’s the only thing which cannabis can do, there are other alternatives which are legally available in Namibia and these are more potent, more stronger than what one can get from cannabis,” Shangula commented. 

“From our medical point of view, we are not suffering because cannabis is not legally available in Namibia. We have alternatives that are more potent than cannabis. We have sufficient products to address the problem of pain, so we are not suffering,” maintained Shangula. 

Meanwhile, the global cannabis industry is growing like an out-of-control weed. Although the rapidly emerging and stock exchange listed cannabis companies experienced a decline in stock prices recently, they quickly rebounded amidst battles with regulators. 

More than half of US states have legalised medical cannabis, with 10 of those states also allowing adult consumption. The millions of dollars collected in taxes from cannabis sales are used to build schools, hospitals, roads and to develop communities.  

Last year, sales of the legal cannabis industry soared to US$12.2 billion (more than N$178 billion) globally and industry analysts estimate this could hit US$31.3 billion (almost N$456 billion) by 2022 and is expected to grow to US$80 billion (more than N$1.1 trillion) a year within the next 10 years. 
With these impressive growth figures, the assumption could be made that governments and corporates are all positioning themselves for this growth opportunity. However, antiquated legislation from the 1970s being enforced in Namibia is stifling any progress in this regard. 

“Cannabis is a billion-dollar industry world-wide that can boost the Namibian economy through job creation, investments and exports. The versatile plant is not only low-cost but is also environmentally and eco-friendly,” said Brian Jaftha, president of the Ganja Users of Namibia, a local group fighting for legalisation of the plant.  

Jaftha emphasised that it is also hugely important that any forthcoming legislation to allow for access to medical or industrial cannabis also protects the environmental, social and rural economic potentials of the hemp industry. Hemp is a strain of the cannabis sativa plant species that is grown specifically for the industrial use. 

Jaftha specifically mentioned southern African countries such as Zimbabwe and Lesotho which he said have legalised medical cannabis but still lock up individuals for recreational use. 

“We don’t want only the corporates and the big pharmaceuticals to benefit but individuals and communities must also benefit. Any legislation in Namibia that considers legalising cannabis must include the previously disadvantaged as well as those that have been persecuted and discriminated against for decades,” Jaftha added.  

Outside of its enormous potential as biofuel, hemp is currently used in construction, car manufacturing, paper, food, animal-bedding, clothing, drinks, health, pharmaceutical and cosmetics industries, and there are solid indicators that it will replace other carbon intensive processing in a further range of industrial applications. 

Petrol-based fibreglass, for example, is more than 400 percent more expensive to produce than hemp-based fibreglass of superior strength and quality. 

Rapid advances in hemp technology are bringing production costs well below carbon-based equivalents and the industry is now the fastest growing employment provider in the United States, outperforming the US tech industry by a ratio of 2:1 in 2017.

Hemp is a high value, cash crop with massive economic potential and it can also deliver substantial environmental benefits. In fact, historical figures in the US like George Washington and Thomas Jefferson grew hemp and the US’ Declaration of Independence was written on hemp paper. Famous inventor, Rudolph Diesel, designed his engine to run on hemp oil while Henry Ford experimented with hemp to build car bodies. 

Hemp is naturally resistant to most pests, precluding the need for pesticides. Its tight-spacing squeezes out weeds, so herbicides are not necessary and it produces up to four tonnes per acre per year while leaving a weed-free field for a following crop.

Hemp thrives without chemical additives or fertilisers and requires minimal use of natural resources. When used as a break crop, hemp significantly increases the yield of rotation crops and as biomass, it is a fully renewable energy resource. Hemp promotes biodiversity and ecosystem health in marine environments as well as on land. And a growing body of international research also demonstrates that commercial hemp farming has a significant positive impact on the regeneration of rural communities.

Hemp absorbs more carbon dioxide (CO2) per area than any forest or commercial crop and as such is the ideal carbon sink. Its soil-decontamination potential is prolific and its capacity to impact industrial carbon emissions is immense. Hemp is the most complete plant-based protein on earth because it contains all nine essential amino acids and has considerable nutritional, health and medicinal properties.

Furthermore, Europe, which has the largest subsidised health care system in the world, is projected to be the largest medical marijuana market in the near future. Given the number of identified illnesses and disorders medical marijuana could be used to treat, the investment sector has a real opportunity to pass the recreational sector in terms of size. 

Just this week thousands of visitors converged in New York for the sixth annual Cannabis World Congress and Business Expo. 

Over 180 companies from around the world showcased their wares, from laced dog treats to skateboards made from hemp. However, the exhibits also illustrated the difficulties businesses face in navigating a global patchwork of laws when it comes to cannabis legalisation. 

Alvine Kapitako
2019-06-14 09:48:04 | 8 months ago

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