Cape Town - It’s time to come out the cannabis closet.
This was the message from some speakers of The Cannabis Vexpo, which culminates on Saturday in an attempt to set the all-time African dope smoking record.
This year, the Covid-19 pandemic forced physical expo plans to go up in smoke, but it couldn’t stop South Africa’s cannabis community – as well as experts and investors from around the world – from gathering online to share ideas about the plant and it’s future.
The virtual expo, or “Vexpo”, took place over the past three days, with a focus on investment and development of the cannabis industry in the Western Cape, furthering legalisation, and delving into new technologies for processing cannabis for medical and recreational use.
Live talks and panel discussions were free to attend online, and in parallel to those sessions, a virtual “blazing room” was set up so that attendees could share a smoke, all without leaving the safety and privacy of their own homes across the world.
Among the expert speakers was Dr Shiksha Gallow, who is a medical doctor and on the board of Biodata. She is leading clinical trials to test the safety, efficacy and dosages of medical cannabis as a treatment option for certain conditions in South Africa.
“Although we know the plant works, with medical professionals we have to prove it to them. We’ve started our first trial with 1 000 participants where we’re trying to replace opioids with medical cannabis.”
Opioids are drugs usually used to relieve pain, but they can become addictive.
“There is more than enough academic evidence that cannabis is safe. Nobody can ever die from cannabis, it’s extremely safe.”
She said that the stigmatisation of using cannabis prevents some of her patients from getting the relief they need – especially mothers who are making decisions for their children who have cancer or suffer from seizures.
“The main barrier is ignorance. That woman gets told she’s a bad mother and she gets ostracised for going the cannabis route. It breaks my heart. The stigma attached is huge,” Gallow said.
Myrtle Clarke, managing director of Fields of Green for All, highlighted the need for better representation of women in cannabis culture – but also a desperate need to educate government agencies about what is actually legal and how to treat cannabis users.
“We hear stories every single week of social workers who are trying to take kids away because their mom has tested positive for cannabis use. We find lots and lots of women being arrested for cannabis. We’ve got to educate the Saps and the Department of Social Development,” she said.
“We need more women smoking weed on TV. We need it to be in their faces that we use cannabis every single day. I use cannabis as a relaxant. I know a lot of mothers use it for their children. We want to be seen smoking weed, enjoying it, telling the world that we’re proud of our use of this amazing healing herb.”
Clarke also appealed to people not to enter the cannabis industry in the hopes of making a quick buck, without genuine passion for the plant.
“If you don’t use cannabis, please stay away from our industry, because then you’re just after the money. You need to use cannabis so you have an affinity for the plant.”