News Feature | April 1, 2014

Waiver For Plandai Biotechnology Could Hasten Medical Marijuana Research

By Liisa Vexler

Cannabis industry pharmaceutical company, Plandaí Biotechnology, Inc., may become the first publicly traded company to get to the clinical trials stage with a medical marijuana product because of an opportunity it has to move forward on research. In the United States, where marijuana is classified as Schedule 1 (defined as drugs with no accepted medical use and a high potential for abuse), research is still prohibited. However, Plandaí's desire to use the drug for development of promising therapies may happen in the near future. This opportunity for the biotechnology company is a result of relationships it has developed far from the shores of the United States, in Africa.

Plandaí Biotechnology has significant assets in the form of more than 8,500 acres of land, including farms and infrastructure in the province of Mpumalanga, South Africa. The company’s South African factory and infrastructure were developed to exclusively process its Phytofare Catechin Complex developed from the green tea cultivated on its land there. While South African law also does not allow the growing of cannabis, the lawmakers in that country may be more receptive to arguments presented in support of biotechnological research into cannabis than those in the United States have been thus far.

Dr. Mario Oriani-Ambrosini, a South African parliamentarian who is battling late-stage cancer, requested a ministerial dispensation or “waiver” from the Secretary of Parliament of South Africa on behalf of Plandaí. If it is granted, this dispensation would allow the company to cultivate and conduct research for medicinal purposes in South Africa.

Dr. Oriani-Ambrosini recently proposed a law to allow use and research into medical cannabis that has received popular support and the creation of the Cancer Treatment Campaign. The waiver requested by the Cancer Treatment Campaign and Oriani-Ambrosini would allow cultivation and testing of the controlled substance for medicinal purposes in human subjects.

Should the dispensation be allowed, the company can begin its research into medicinal marijuana in South Africa while it waits for the US government to evaluate its legislations related to the drug.