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Pot’s new Hot Spot – watch out for the Durban Poison

Lesotho Flag incoudes black object on white background - looks like a bong
Royal Flag of Lesotho – is that a bong?

The African continent is the largest producer and consumer of cannabis. So its no surprise that Canadian licensed cannabis producer Supreme Cannabis has invested $10 million into Medigrow Lesotho, which was the first legally licensed medical cannabis producer in that country.  Lesotho, a landlocked kingdom encircled by South Africa, has a temperate climate and lush landscape – perfect for annual multicrops of CBD rich Sativa, and also illegal THC strains.

The March 2018 deal gave Supreme a roughly 10 per cent stake in Medigrow, which it hopes will churn out “quality medical cannabis oils” that can be exported to Canada and fuel the international cannabis supply chain – subject to regulatory approvals.

Since then, Canadian cannabis firms including Aphria Inc. and Canopy Growth Corp. have also struck deals in this nation of two million inhabitants. 

The proximity to Europe is a major part of its potential. And it was the first African state to invite applications for licences to grow medical marijuana

Its understandable that the government is highly sensitised to the pot industry. Lesotho’s 2016 GDP was just over $2 billion –  $100 per person, and much of that came from illegal cannabis. A 1999 UNESCO report called Lesotho a “giant of the marijuana trade,” supplying the majority of the cannabis consumed in South Africa.  This includes the famous Durban Poison brand, which despite its name is not grown in nearby Durban, but in Lesotho’s, Sehlabathebe reservation area.

The government is being very co-operative with foreign companies according to one source. They  want to be part of the new global industry.

But moving cannabis internationally is complex, requiring regulatory approval from multiple governments, and compliance with international treaties. The UN Single Convention on Narcotic Drugs of 1961, for instance, prohibits the production and supply of specific drugs, including cannabis, except under government licence “for specific purposes such as medical treatment and research.”

Also in March 2018, Rhizo Sciences facilitated the first shipment of medical cannabis from Africa to Canada. The 850-gram shipment arrived in Vancouver addressed to Anandia Labs, a cannabis research facility recently acquired by Aurora Cannabis.

 Seattle-based Rhizo , which calls itself an international medical cannabis company, partnered with  Lesotho-based cannabis producer, Medi Kingdom.  But MediKingdom is now thought to have accepted better terms from a competitor.

Another chunk of Lesotho’s production is thought to go to German pharmaceutical companies,  after years of negotiation with the health ministries of both countries.

In the long run all growing and production will be transferred out of high cost OECD countries to lower cost and better weather of the southern hempisphere (sic).

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