The legalization of cannabis has become one of the biggest debates of the 21st century as the formerly lethal and illegal drug is gaining a lot of attention and favour from most Western countries that are capitalizing on its medicinal qualities and business potentials.
On Tuesday morning, South Africa decriminalized the private use of cannabis after a long legal battle to decriminalize its use by adults in their homes. The ruling follows a rather surprising revelation by beverage manufacturers Coca-Cola that it is considering the production of cannabis-infused drinks.
Cannabis is still illegal in most parts of the world and in the United States where the Coca-Cola Company is headquartered, only nine states have legalized marijuana for recreational use while 29 states have only legalized medical marijuana.
So how and why is Coca-Cola planning on producing cannabis-infused drinks?
The soft drink company is not targeting the harmful component of cannabis which is tetrahydrocannabinol, also known as THC. Rather, it is tapping into the cannabinoid Cannabidiol, or CBD component of the marijuana plant that doesn’t make you high or intoxicated.
CBD is believed to have anti-inflammatory, analgesic, anti-nausea and anti-seizure effects that work on the entire body as compared with the THC that only affects the brain and central nervous system. The marijuana component is illegal in the United States and other parts of the world but is used in pharmaceuticals.
According to Bloomberg, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration gave GW Pharmaceuticals Plc approval in June to sell a CBD-based treatment for two rare forms of childhood epilepsy.
Other companies are reported to be developing CBD treatments and the market is projected to make sales of $22 billion more than cannabis by 2022.
“The space is evolving quickly. No decisions have been made at this time,” says Coca-Cola in a statement after Bloomberg reported that it was in talks with Aurora Cannabis, a Canadian cannabis company which has also expressed interest in cannabis drinks.
A Gallup poll released in 2017 indicated that 64% of Americans favour legalization of marijuana. The industry is believed to have posted nearly $10 billion in sales in 2017.