BusinessDay
NigeriaDecides2023

Industrial use of Cannabis holds multi-billion dollar opportunity

Valued at $345 billion in a 2019 report by New Frontier Data (NFD), the Cannabis industry has uses from organic body care, clothing, construction materials, and biofuels to plastic composites. But these are often overshadowed by the negative perception of its consumption through smoking.

When Benjamin Kalu, spokesperson of Nigeria’s House of Representatives recently said the federal legislative chamber was considering legalisation of the controversial crop for its economic benefits, it generated reactions, just as would have been envisaged. His comments on the benefits and opportunities of Cannabis were made during a trip to Ondo State, whose governor coincidentally had declared support in the same direction.

“We all know that Ondo State is the hotbed of cannabis cultivation in Nigeria,” read a tweet from Governor Rotimi Akeredolu’s verified Twitter handle @RotimiAkeredolu in 2019. “We know how to grow it and it thrives well in the Sunshine State. With an estimated value of $145 billion in 2025, we would be shortchanging ourselves if we failed to tap into the Legal Marijuana Market.” The market is however much larger than the $145 billion the governor estimates, going by the report by NFD. The legal market in the United States alone has been projected to reach $35 billion by 2025.

In another tweet, Akeredolu had stated, “Our focus now is Medical Marijuana cultivation in controlled plantations under the full supervision of the @ndlea_nigeria. I strongly implore the FG to take this seriously as it is a thriving industry that will create 1000’s of Jobs for our youth & spur Economic Diversification.”

It is likened to playing the devil’s advocate when the subject of Cannabis or Marijuana or ‘Indian’ hemp as more popularly called is highlighted in Nigeria. Popular view has the crop as the source of a social vice that could impair the reasoning of individuals who abuse it.

However, the plant serves various uses from healthcare to nutrition, and on the heavier industrial side, even for fibre used in producing ropes attached to anchors for boats and ships.

As previously reported by BusinessDay, while some countries take steps to put the plant to economic, health and other non-harmful human needs, Nigeria is yet to tap into the multi-billion dollar potential it holds.

Read Also: NDLEA discovers cannabis plantation in Delta

Under controlled production for purely industrial purposes, perhaps under NDLEA supervision, as even suggested by Governor Akeredolu, the end products will more likely be exported out of Nigeria, to countries where the processing into the different industrial forms are done.

In healthcare, medical cannabis is used to reduce nausea and vomiting during chemotherapy for cancer patients, to improve appetite in people with HIV/AIDS, and to treat chronic pain and muscle spasms.

In industrial use (which applies strictly to hemp), Cannabis sativa cultivars are used for fibres due to their long stems. It refers to any industrial or foodstuff product that is not intended for use as a drug. Many countries regulate limits for the psychoactive compound (THC) concentrations in products labelled as hemp, making its industrial usage possible.

Cannabis for industrial uses is valuable in numerous commercial products, especially as fibre ranging from paper, cordage, construction material and textiles in general, to clothing. Hemp is described as stronger and longer-lasting than cotton. It is also a useful source of foodstuffs (hemp milk, hemp seed, and hemp oil) and biofuels.

Cannabis is generally described as a family of plants with two primary classifications — Indica and Sativa. While marijuana can be considered a member of either the Indica or Sativa families, Hemp is a member of the Cannabis Sativa family.

According to the “Global State of Hemp: 2019 Industry Outlook,” Hemp has been making headlines for its impact on several mature markets – from food and textiles to building construction and nutraceuticals. Hemp is emerging as a potential commodity ripe to not only influence but possibly revolutionise major economic sectors around the world

The Encyclopaedia Britannica defines Hemp (Cannabis sativa), also called industrial hemp, as a member of the plant of the family Cannabaceae cultivated for its fibre (bast fibre) or its edible seeds.

Hemp, according to Britannica, is sometimes confused with the cannabis plants that serve as sources of the drug marijuana and the drug preparation hashish. Although all three products—hemp, marijuana, and hashish—contain tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), a compound that produces psychoactive effects in humans, the variety of cannabis cultivated for hemp has only small amounts of THC relative to that grown for the production of marijuana or hashish.

“Three of the world’s top 10 cannabis-consuming nations are in Africa, highlighting both the importance of cannabis reform and related business opportunities throughout the region,” said Giadha Aguirre de Carcer, CEO/ founder, New Frontier Data, in an emailed comment to BusinessDay previously published. NFD states on its website that it takes no stance on the legalisation of Cannabis, rather, to provide data that will be used to make informed decisions in the growing industry.

In 2018, South Africa decriminalised possession and cultivation of Cannabis, but not for sale. The country also allows it for medical purposes. While Nigeria does not have to follow everything other countries implement, developing the right knowledge and making adjustments where found logical, should be considered.

As of 2019, Nigeria had the highest rate of Cannabis use in the world, with 19.4 percent of the population over the age of 15 consuming Cannabis in the past year, according to the Global Cannabis Report and the Africa Hemp and Cannabis Report.

If usage through smoking or other means that could impair human judgment is the reason for opposing it in Nigeria, this does not appear to have worked. Taking an economic approach outside of direct human usage may however deliver more value to Nigeria and those who explore the value chain locally. This could be in billions of dollars to be legally earned.

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