The granting of a licence to a SA company to begin the cultivation of cannabis for medical use in Lesotho may bode well for its availability. (File picture: AP)
The granting of a licence to a South African company to begin the cultivation of cannabis for medical use in Lesotho may bode well for its availability - and legalisation - in South Africa.

South African company Verve Dynamics - which describes itself as a “vegan-friendly manufacturer of highly purified botanical extracts” - became the first company in Africa to have been granted regulatory approval to begin the process of “growing and producing high-quality cannabis extracts commercially”.

The licence relates to the cultivation, processing, and sale of cannabis for medical and scientific purposes.

IFP member of Parliament, Narend Singh, said the development was “a definite step in the right direction”.

The party took up the battle to legalise the substance for medicinal purposes after one of its MPs, Mario Oriani-Ambrosini, died as a result of lung cancer.

Oriani-Ambrosini, as was reported by The Mercury earlier this year, placed the debate over cannabis use in the spotlight in Parliament in 2014, making a direct, impassioned plea to President Jacob Zuma to decriminalise its use, particularly for medicinal purposes.

He died six months later.

Proponents have lauded the substance for its healing properties for everything from pain relief to the treatment of cancer.

Singh said: “As it stands, being in possession of cannabis or using it is illegal.

“Exceptions can only be made if an application is made to the Medicines Control Council.

“There are 35 applications before them at the moment.”

If permission was granted, he said, the cannabis products needed to be brought in from outside the country.

“It’s an expensive, cumbersome process. We hope that this development brings us closer to our end goal of regulation over prohibition.”

Singh said recent talks with the Department of Health had been “hopeful”.

The company’s representative, Richard Davies, said in a statement that the Lesotho government’s decision to move forward with the “historic decision” meant that the country would play a significant role in developing the industry, both locally and internationally, as well as establishing itself as a pioneer on the African continent with regards to state-of-the-art extraction equipment.

He said they would make all the equipment and services used in South ­Africa available to their partners in Africa, as long as both the legal and regulatory approvals had been met.

“By doing this, we empower even the poorest country by processing their material under strict conditions, thus allowing them to compete on the international market with a first-world product without the related costs of otherwise prohibitively expensive equipment and highly skilled personnel.”

- The Mercury