Scientists have provided undeniable findings that we are, in fact, experiencing the negative effects of climate change. A large contributing factor to this, is the rate at which deforestation is taking place.
An appealing fact to begin with; one of the oldest cultivated crops in the world, the controversial hemp plant, is able to produce four times the amount of paper per acre than its counterpart, trees. With an impressive yield-time of 120 days, from the first day the hemp seed is planted, any budding economist and nature lover can appreciate the benefits that this generates.
This Cannabis sativa plant has industrial uses ranging from eco-friendly building materials, industrial textiles, clothing and bedding, couches, cosmetics, to body products, nutritional supplements, medicinal treatments etc.. There are over thousands of uses for this bush, making it one of the most versatile fibre plants on the planet.
Difference between Hemp and Marijuana
Confusion, and resistance by government and the general public, mostly is caused by not knowing the difference between industrial hemp and its recreational sister, marijuana. Although both come from the same strain of cannabis, the stigma attaches to Marijuana, this ‘Cannabis sativa’. The psychoactive outcome experienced by recreational users, is a result of marijuana’s high level of delta-9 tetrahydrocannabinols (THC).
Hemp, on the other hand, (‘Cannabis sativa L’), is cultivated especially for its industrial uses, and contains almost no THC, but rather high levels of another chemical, Cannabidiol (CBD). CBD has a hand in preventing the uptake of THC into your nervous system, relegating hemp to the status of a rather more ineffective recreational drug. The stem and fibres of the hemp plant are utilised, along with the roots, oils and seeds, whereas the buds and leaves of the marijuana plant are used.
When can we see hemp legalised in S.A.?
The South African government and parliament are currently dealing with ground breaking applications to decriminalise the personal use and cultivation of cannabis.
Hemp, by association, falls under the category ‘Cannabis’, making it impossible to grow it legally without approval from the government. In order to grow hemp, one will have to obtain a licence from the Medicines Control Council, and a permit from the Department of Health. Many are met with frustrations and fruitless efforts when trying to process these applications. That has not slowed down a local Durban company from cultivating and producing Industrial Hemp and marketing its products into the South African and international markets.
In 2010, a Licence to cultivate and process hemp and cannabis was awarded to this private company, House of Hemp. Their 40 000 square meter greenhouse with laboratories, on the site of the old DF Malan airport, not only produces hemp products but also medicinal cannabis.
In 1996, innovative Cape Town company Hemporium was founded. With the previous and current legal ramifications of growing hemp in South Africa, Hemporium imported hemp material from China in May of 1996 for the production of a range of clothing and bags. Along with a farming partner, in 2011, permission was given from the government to grow hemp under a ‘Commercial Incubation Research Permit’. This 3 year pilot program was implemented mid-2015. Data accumulated from this trial was sent to the Department of Health for legislative review. To date, feedback received from government states they are still busy with a feasibility study, and the report has not yet been finalised.
To get an idea of what is possible with industrial hemp, check out this house in Noordhoek, ‘The House that Hemp Built’ in this article, built in 2011, which displays the increasing uses of hemp in building products, and for interior furnishings and fittings.
Certification of Commercial Cannabis Production
While South Africa grapples with the moral perplexities of conserving our environment, and of job creation, Niagara College, in Southern Ontario, Canada, will be offering a graduate certificate for Cannabis production. This one year programme, announced on the 19th of September, 2017, certifies you in the production of commercial cannabis. This was approved by the Ontario Ministry of Advanced Education and Skills development. Recognising the changes in legislation, and a ‘need in a growing labour market’, graduate certificates for the production of commercial cannabis will be launched in 2018.
We will keep a beady eye on the forward progress of the trials of the cannabis plant. The general consensus is, if the personal use and cultivation of cannabis is legalised in South Africa, surely it would pave the way for hemp to introduce a much needed renewal resource, as well as an overwhelming demand for job creation in our economy.