Cannabis prod­ucts are fly­ing high

The Con­court rul­ing has opened many mar­kets for the much-ma­ligned drug

Saturday Star - - METRO - CHELSEA GEACH [email protected] EARTH TOUCH

Cannabis-flavoured prod­ucts have been soar­ing in pop­u­lar­ity ever since the Con­sti­tu­tional Court ruled that dagga is now le­gal for pri­vate use in Septem­ber last year.

From cannabis beer to cannabis en­ergy drinks, con­sumers can now buy weed-flavoured prod­ucts off the shelf in re­tail out­lets.

South Africa’s home-brewed canna-beer, Dur­ban Poi­son Cannabis Lager, launched just four months ago and has al­ready sold nearly 1 mil­lion bot­tles. It’s avail­able at liquor stores for just R18 a bot­tle.

Co-cre­ator Graeme Bird said he has been blown away by the re­sponse from lo­cal con­sumers.

“I knew there was an ap­petite,” he said. “It’s def­i­nitely breaking down bar­ri­ers of per­cep­tions about it.”

In­ter­na­tion­ally, brands such as Heineken and Corona have al­ready an­nounced they are de­vel­op­ing dagga-in­fused prod­ucts, with some on shelves al­ready.

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The drinks may be branded as cannabis prod­ucts, but don’t get too ex­cited – they don’t con­tain any ac­tual mar­i­juana or tetrahy­dro­cannabi­nol (THC), which is the main psy­choac­tive chem­i­cal found in cannabis. It is still il­le­gal for that to be sold or bought com­mer­cially.

The Dur­ban Poi­son brew uses hemp seeds to add its unique flavour. Hemp and cannabis are the two main species within the cannabis fam­ily, but hemp is not highly psy­choac­tive and is le­gal for com­mer­cial use in South Africa. Sur­pris­ingly, it is also closely re­lated to hops, which are tra­di­tion­ally used to flavour beer.

“Hops and cannabis are part of the same Cannabicea fam­ily. They ac­tu­ally have a whole bunch of sim­i­lar flavour pro­files,” Bird ex­plained. “Hemp gives the beer a nut­ti­ness and a smooth­ness that makes it go down re­ally nicely.”

The Dur­ban Poi­son brew has been picked up by one of the coun­try’s ma­jor al­co­hol dis­trib­u­tors and is now avail­able in liquor stores na­tion­wide – which Bird takes as a sign that toplevel al­co­hol com­pa­nies see the com­mer­cial po­ten­tial of canna-bev­er­ages.

“There’s no doubt you’re go­ing to see a bunch of cannabis prod­ucts en­ter­ing the mar­ket,” he said.

Mar­ket­ing an­a­lyst Chris Mo­erdyk says it’s to­tally le­gal to use cannabis brand­ing, even if there isn’t any THC in the prod­uct.

“If any­body is claim­ing that there is real mar­i­juana in a prod­uct, then that’s fraud­u­lent,” he said. “If they’re just call­ing it cannabis, it’s per­fectly le­gal – there are an enor­mous num­ber of ex­am­ples in the world of prod­uct names which don’t de­scribe the prod­uct at all. To­mato chips don’t con­tain any to­mato, and buf­falo wings are chicken.”

Mo­erdyk said these prod­ucts are rid­ing a wave of weed hype which has swept through the coun­try – and also po­ten­tially set­ting up their brands for the fu­ture when it may be­come le­gal to in­clude ac­tual cannabis.

“Cannabis has be­come the big thing in South Africa ever since the Con­sti­tu­tional Court de­ci­sion,” he said. “What they’re do­ing is just tak­ing ad­van­tage of the tremen­dous pub­lic­ity that’s around cannabis at the mo­ment.”

For Bird and Poi­son City beers, in­clud­ing ac­tual THC in a re­fresh­ing, non-al­co­holic drink is the ideal end game.

“The mod­ern con­sumer who is more health-aware is say­ing, if I can get a so­cial high of cannabis rather than al­co­hol, that’s a much bet­ter op­tion,” said Bird.

Bird has trade­marked the Dur­ban Poi­son brand over­seas.

CON­SUMERS can now buy weed-flavoured prod­ucts, such as Dur­ban Poi­son Cannabis Lager, off the shelf at re­tail out­lets.

SIMON Keys and Siouxsie Gil­lett from the Nat Geo Wild tele­vi­sion show Snakes in the City.

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