Latest News Editor's Choice

News / Local

Africa's first ever cannabis research laboratory revives Zimbabwe health sector

by Staff reporter
03 Mar 2022 at 05:35hrs | Views
In 2018, the new political dispensation in Zimbabwe took a new trajectory in the health sector by issuing out 57 licences for cultivation of cannabis also known as mbanje or marijuana for medicinal purposes.

The ordinary cultivation, possession, use or smoking of the drug, however, remains banned to the ordinary people. KKOG Zimbabwe a subsidiary of KKOG Global on Tuesday had a groundbreaking ceremony for the construction of the first ever cannabis research laboratory in Africa. Isdore Guvamombe (IG) talks to KKOG Global chief executive officer Mr Rene Joseph (RJ)   


IG: What are the major components of KKOG cannabis investment in Zimbabwe?

RJ: KKOG Zimbabwe is comprised of a cultivation component, where we are currently growing on over 1000 acres, the extraction component, as the leading cannabis extraction company in Africa, and the medicinal research component, with the only cannabis research lab on the continent. We have started and we are optimistic the future is great, given our global experience and highly professional team.

IG: What is the envisaged impact on the SADC region in particular, and Africa in general?

RJ: KKOG's goal is to assist SADC countries in creating a Pharmaceutical Sector which can begin producing pharmaceutical alternatives to the many pain management drugs currently purchased at high costs by the over 15 Southern African countries.

By producing a less expensive, fast acting, and non-addictive alternative to highly addictive and habit-forming drugs, we save countries such as Tanzania over US$200 million per year. US$20m which can then be allocated elsewhere within the country's needs. Everything from Panadol to the highest pain-relieving drugs can be produced, while removing any psychoactive properties.

IG: What are the international implications of the investment?

RJ: The implications are large for Africa as a whole. From lowering the regions dependency on imported medicines. To soon being able to draw researchers and doctors worldwide to visit and begin researching the plants full potential.

IG: Who is going to supply your factory with cannabis?

RJ: KKOG employs some of the world's best cannabis master growers who work side by side with our Team Zimbabwe and sharing insights and cultivating our own unique hybrid strains.

IG: Can small holder farmers be contracted to grow cannabis in Zimbabwe?

RJ: As it currently stands cannabis can only be grown within the specific dictates of Statutory Instrument 2018-062.   However, Government has encouraging inputs from the public via stakeholder engagements. These engagements are likely to culminate in proposed amendments to the Statutory Instrument, informed by the cumulative learning over the past three years.  We are of the opinion that contracting of small holder framers under proper supervision of competent, vetted cannabis companies will not only accelerate skills and knowledge transfer but also allow for a deeper penetration of the monetary benefits of the industry to the people of the Zimbabwe at the grass roots level.

IG: Can you explain the medicinal properties of cannabis?

RJ: It is important to emphasise that medicines produced from cannabis are entirely natural, since human beings produce cannabinoids in our bodies, and our endocannabinoid system regulates the immune system, gastrointestinal system, and our nervous system. A far better alternative to synthetic medicines.

Within the plant are chemicals called cannabinoids, similar to molecules produced by the human body, known as endocannabinoids. A wide network of receptors in the human brain and body respond to the plant and human versions of these molecules. The body's endocannabinoid system is involved in regulating everything from pain to mood, appetite, stress, sleep and memory.

So far, 144 different cannabinoids have been found in cannabis sativa—most of them barely understood — and new properties are being discovered all the time. The best known are tetrahydrocannabinol (thc), the (psychoactive) ingredient that gets you high, and cannabidiol (cbd), which does not, and which is increasingly used as a food additive and supplement.

Drug treaties have severely impeded research into cannabis. But over the years, evidence from clinical trials and elsewhere has shown its efficacy in treating a range of conditions, such as muscle pain in multiple sclerosis, nausea induced by chemotherapy, treatment-resistant epilepsy and chronic pain in adults and recently Covid-19.

IG: How many varieties of cannabis can be grown in Zimbabwe?

RJ: Almost all varieties can be grown in Zimbabwe, due to the temperate climate and healthy soil properties. What should be noted are the varieties that can be grown in Zimbabwe that cannot be grown elsewhere, such as those with high levels of CBG, which is found in only 1 percent of cannabis strains.

IG: What are the advantages of using cannabis for medicinal purposes?

RJ: Development of drugs from botanicals such as the cannabis plant, researchers generally consider medications like these, to be more promising therapeutically than synthetics as they are absorbed by the body more readily and have very low adverse effects. Not to mention they are non-habit forming, locally produced and 1 tenth the cost of synthetic versions.

IG: What has been KKOG's world experience in cannabis?

RJ: There is a saying "To whom much is given, much is expected", at KKOG our goal is to share our experience and knowledge navigating the opportunity of cannabis with our African brethren. Africa has the ability to control the cannabis industry as a whole. I will repeat myself so it is not lost on the readers, AFRICA CAN CONTROL THE ENTIRE CANNABIS MARKET. If African leaders understand this one fundamental truth, the financial and socio-economic value will be immeasurable. But due to misunderstandings and the stigmas that surrounded it, they may be taking missteps that can hinder their capacity to do so.

IG: In some developed countries the use or smoking of herbal cannabis is allowed in specific zones. Others call them green zones. What are green zones and are we going to see some green zones in Zimbabwe?

RJ: Yes, you talk of green zones, when allowed we want to start with Victoria Falls because they have millions of dollars worth of tourism. When tourists come from Europe where cannabis is legal, they need it. So we would love to make Victoria Falls a green zone. We want to sell it to people who have licences or prescriptions from their doctors and they need to have access to cannabis from the green zone and only the green zone. In canada we have green zones that have made $4 billion to $5 billion in revenue and in Zimbabwe Victoria Falls can generate million of US dollars in revenue from the green zones. So yes the future is in green zones at Victoria falls and imagine the amount of revenue to be generated. The world will benefit. Zimbabwe will benefit and Africa will benefit.

Source - The Herald