Different strokes for different folks, as the old saying goes, may not be more relevant in any business than it is for cannabis. There are continuous choices to make and that is beyond the usual how, when and where. What heating, what drying, what additives, what light, what SOPs, GMP, GACP. Hell, some people even have to decide what country they want to cultivate in.
I understand that there was some drama around the Expo. Can you give us some background?
Like most countries going through the slow process of legalisation or decriminalisation, South Africa is operating in a large grey area at the moment. This meant that the Expos in Johannesburg and Cape Town had visits from the police and certain objects were removed. There were also some cases of people having adverse effects to edibles that were handed out. This damage that is done to outsiders hurts the industry. Some companies took it upon themselves to write letters of complaint to government organisations like the Department of Trade and Industry. The letters did not only accuse certain companies of illegal behaviour, but also hung a question mark over the credibility of knowledge to be shared at the Expo, claiming that certain companies were outright lying in their presentations. This was also published on Linkedin. This obviously upset a lot of participants. The core principals of what these people complained about is correct, but the way they went about it was not how it has been done in the industry in the past. One group of letter writers then gate crashed the Durban expo to hand out flyers of their accusations. They were forcibly removed.
What was the result of that?
A lot of important stall holders, like the Department of Trade and Industry cancelled. The break in unity in the industry meant that a lot of people who used to concentrate on building the industry weren’t there. A lot of people who pushed for the industry to move forward are now realising that it is not moving at a rate that is sustainable, so they are looking out for themselves as individuals. They don’t really have a choice in doing it like that anymore. A lot of faces have dropped off the panels and they are just pushing their own company or product. Everybody has switched to survival mode until things come right again. It also means that there weren’t as many business people at the Expo as usual. This is obviously not painting a good picture to the international market. Don’t get me wrong, there are people who are getting great things done, it’s just difficult.
Ok, so tell us some good things that happened?
Durban is a very relaxed town. Kwa-Zulu Natal (the province where Durban is situated) has taken a very progressive approach to cannabis. The amount of cannabis clubs represented most probably quadrupled. There were a lot of grey area and illegal participants but in some way it’s good for the industry because it helps to build a foundation for the inevitable next step which will mean legalisation. It shows that businesses can be built, and business can be done. Unfortunately, it also means that sometimes the wrong kind of people are getting the publicity and this will always upset the people who are following the rules and wanting to do it the right way. Mostly though people were operating within the rules and a feeling that people want to be left alone to just do their thing. Most people just want free trade where people can buy and sell what they want, and Durban is most definitely the right place because it has a lot more of that attitude than any other place. It has become important to differentiate between industry building and industry participation and it was lovely to see everybody together. But you can’t talk business and development and policy framework because the grey area is always hovering. Perhaps it wasn’t the greatest place for business, but it was a very chill atmosphere, and you could hang out with other people instead of manning the stall the whole time.