Lesotho’s Ministry of Health has authorized Verve Dynamics, a South African company that manufactures herbal medicines and skincare products, to grow, process, and sell marijuana for medicinal purposes.
The announcement, which was made last week, makes Lesotho the first African country to legalize the use of marijuana for therapeutic purposes.
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“Verve Dynamics is honoured to be the first company in Africa to have been granted regulatory approval to begin the process of growing and producing high quality cannabis extracts commercially,” Verve Dynamics said in a statement.
The company, which defines itself as a vegan-friendly producer of highly purified botanical extracts and specialty ingredients, added that the permit will be instrumental in the long-term development of the marijuana industry.
It also promised to invest in state of the art extraction equipment that will make Lesotho a leader in marijuana extraction and purification.
Verve Dynamics Lesotho, a sister company of Verve Dynamics South Africa, will start growing high Cannabidiol (CBD) with sativa strains in July 2018 and may explore other varieties once it has established itself in the market.
It further promised to offer the same level of proficiency and quality offered by its sister company in South Africa, which uses only GRAS (Generally Regarded as Safe) solvents in its extractions.
“Lesotho is one of the most economically advantageous countries in the world to produce large volumes of high quality, low cost Cannabis and Hemp due to its expertise in high altitude cultivation, a knowledgeable and skilled labor force, and supportive forward-looking government,” the company added.
With the rate of poverty in Lesotho hitting the roof, farmers in the rural areas have for a long time been growing marijuana for local and regional consumption in the neighboring South Africa.
They normally conceal the plant within their maize plantations until it becomes of age – a trend that is also very common in the neighboring Swaziland.
A number of other African countries, especially in the South African region are also considering making the production and use of marijuana for therapeutic purposes legal.
Malawi is currently reviewing proposals by local companies to legalize the milder species of cannabis, Hemp. The same is happening in Zimbabwe.
In March this year, a court in Western Cape, South Africa, allowed the private use of “dagga”, a local name for marijuana, but prohibited its use on the streets.
While some scientists maintain that marijuana has immense medicinal benefits, critics say it contains harmful chemicals that are 20 percent more likely to cause cancer to the user than tobacco.
Some even argue that marijuana contains ingredients that can potentially affect the formation of sperm cells and eventually deform them, thus causing temporary sterility.