21 Apr Q&A with Hemporium co-founder Tony Budden on the legalisation of personal marijuana use and the future of hemp in SA
In the past month the Western Cape High Court ruled in favour of the legalisation of marijuana for personal home use. If you caught wind of all that but found yourself a bit in the dark as to the details of what this meant and why it is the first step in a legitimately relevant big deal, grab some herbal brew and pull up a chair. We touched base with Tony Budden, co-owner of the Hemporium brand, on his insider knowledge regarding the favourable ruling for private dagga use and its implications for the hemp industry in South Africa going forward.
- Before we dive into all things dagga, tell us a bit about the conception of Hemporium and how it has lead to your involvement in these proceedings?
Myself and my partners Duncan Parker and Philippa Mohr run Hemporium which was launched in 1996 with the aim of showcasing everything hemp has to offer, which includes textiles, clothing, accessories, cosmetics, paper, building materials and nutritional products. We also grew hemp as part of a commercial incubation research trial and have been instrumental in the lobbying for legislation change in order for the approval of hemp to be commercially-grown in South Africa.
- So, let’s just clarify the terminology – what’s the difference between hemp and marijuana, weed and cannabis?
Hemp is the descriptive term for the non-psychoactive products made from the cannabis plant, specifically referring to the fibre, seeds and biomass. Typically hemp varieties have less than 1% THC, the psychoactive compound found in marijuana that gets you high, so it cannot be used as a drug. Hemp also has higher ratios of cannabidiol, a non-psychoactive cannabinoid that has been proven to have anti-psychotic properties, which is another reason why hemp will not get you high. Marijuana, weed and dagga are all terms used to describe the dried leaves and flowering tops with psychoactive compounds.
- Can you give a very brief overview of your involvement regarding the legalisation of medical marijuana and next steps to cannabis legalisation for home use?
I was asked to be an expert witness for the plaintiffs on the Industrial Cannabis/hemp side, as the constitutional challenges include aspects around how our current law that proclaims “Cannabis, the whole plant, and any product thereof…is a dangerous and undesirable substance” also excludes hemp from being grown in South Africa and is preventing us from creating sustainable jobs, houses and food.
- The benefits of medical use are clear, but what is your stance or why do you believe there is a benefit to legal home use?
Many people believe that all use is in some way medicinal, as most people use it to destress or relax, but in my mind the ruling was not necessarily about the potential benefits. The judge ruled on the fact that even if there may be some harms, on a relative scale, that harm is less than tobacco or alcohol, and as a responsible adult making a choice in the privacy of your home that is harming no one else, it does not serve the individual, society, or the State to have that individual arrested, thrown in jail and given a criminal record, and it would not pass Constitutional muster to do so. There are many things that we as adults do that are potentially harmful for us, boxing, eating junk-food, gambling, riding a bicycle, drinking alcohol etc., and there are times that we can get into trouble and need help, but it should be a social and health issue if anything, not a criminal one.
If anyone believes that using cannabis should be illegal for adults and that anyone who does so should be thrown in jail, but is ok with them drinking bottle after bottle of booze or smoking cigarettes if they choose, they need to check themselves. We need to realise that you can be against drug abuse AND against prohibition, especially as, after nearly 50 years of the “war on drugs” we have seen that it has failed as a system and only given us more addicts, more gangsters, and more marginalized communities. There are better ways.
- Can you elaborate a little on this (specifically how a legitimate industry can create housing and nutrition)?
The ruling in the Cape High Court does not really help the industrial side, as it is for personal home use only, so we still have to push for this, but it has helped break the stigma as a lot of people came out in support of the judgement, even if they weren’t interested in using cannabis in any way, as they could see the rationale behind the judgement on the human rights issue. This has helped break the stigma around the plant, and our conversation around hemp should be easier now. How can they allow people to consume high THC marijuana but not allow the hemp industry to grow low THC hemp?
- Tell us a bit about the good work Hemporium are doing that people should know about.
Hemporium uses our products to help educate people about the other uses for Cannabis, and make it our mission to showcase how one plant, that is grown sustainably and organically, can provide the resources for so many of our daily needs. By getting products into people’s hands that are functional, durable, fashionable, eco-friendly and resemble the conventional products they use, just better, we can help mainstream hemp and bring it back to where it belongs, as the premier eco-resource.
- What are the 5 most popular Hemporium products to date?
Our socks are most definitely one of the best sellers, as people really feel the difference when wearing a natural, breathable, anti-bacterial fibre on their feet.
Hemporium’s own cosmetic range is made fresh in Cape Town and offer great biodegradable, earth and body friendly alternatives to the conventional products out there. Try the shower gel to feel how your skin is cleaned without being stripped of its natural oils.
Our t-shirts also remain staples in any eco-warrior’s wardrobe as they are durable, comfortable, breathable and there is an energy that you get from wearing natural fibres that synthetics can never give.
Sleeping under a hemp duvet cover also gives a unique feeling, as the texture of hemp is different to other fabrics. It starts out stiff, but the classic saying is “hemp wears in, not out” as it softens with use and washing but retains its strength. The anti-bacterial properties of the fibre also means the bed-linen picks up less odours and needs to be washed less.
The CBD hemp oil, extracted from industrial hemp and sold as a food supplement, is also getting great reviews from people using it as a support product for the healthy functioning of their nervous system, especially if they are in a space of dis-ease.
Anything else on your heart that you want people to be aware of?
We would just like to thank Faithful to Nature for helping us spread an awareness of hemp and distribute our products, as it is only with support from our customers that we can carry on telling the hemp story and keep pushing for a local hemp industry and all the benefits we know will come from that. Thank you.