By Saul Kaye
As world leaders gather in Davos this week to discuss key issues on the global agenda, cannabis industry leaders will meet to explore the role of cannabis in creating a more sustainable future.
This year, two cannabis-related events took place during the days of the World Economic Forum. One of these, The CannaTech Davos Cannabis House is hosting high-level discussions around the plant’s powerful implications for healthcare, international trade and investment, and environmental and resource security.
These discussions can’t come soon enough. As the devastating effects of climate change, disease and poverty continue to ravage the world’s citizens, there is little time to waste.
In recent years, as awareness of its medical benefits has grown, some of the stigma surrounding cannabis has begun to fade. With applications for pain and nausea relief, epilepsy, anxiety and other conditions, cannabis is on the verge of greatly impacting global healthcare.
And that’s just the beginning. From the environment to economics and the social good, cannabis can be sustainably leveraged across the globe.
As a sustainable crop, hemp has tremendous potential. Compared to cotton, hemp generates twice the amount of fiber per acre, uses eight times less water and doesn’t require pesticides.
Since countries like the U.S. and Australia have lifted their bans on growing hemp, it has been used to create a myriad of biodegradable products including wood, biofuel, paper, plastic polymers and building materials.
In addition to its environmental benefits, cannabis cultivation can play a role in addressing social equity and justice. From Africa to Latin America, many countries with great market potential are also home to disenfranchised populations.
With nearly half of the world’s total uncultivated land, Africa has the most untapped potential of the global hemp markets. Its resources are vast—yet it’s the world’s poorest inhabited continent.
A robust, modern cannabis industry would give the continent a much-needed economic boost while addressing systemic poverty and food insecurity.
Indeed, since adopting legislation in 2008 making it possible to grow, process, and export cannabis for medical use, Lesotho has become a key destination for international investors. By 2022, the government hopes to create 30,000 jobs.
Zimbabwe, South Africa and Malawi have also recently legalized cannabis, hoping to replace some of the income lost from tobacco farming.
According to Prohibition Partners, the African cannabis sector could represent a $7.1 billion market in 2023.
Like Africa, Latin America has ample agricultural resources and many disenfranchised communities.
In recent years, Latin America has seen an explosion in legal reform and research. Since Uruguay decriminalized cannabis in 2013, countries including Colombia, Mexico, Argentina, Peru, Paraguay, and Chile have followed suit. According to Energias Market research, the Latin American cannabis industry is expanding, with an expected global growth rate of 19.1% from 2018-2024. Developed properly, this growth could provide jobs and economic opportunity for those who need it most.
Indeed, cannabis cultivation offers opportunity for progress on many levels.
In 2019, the UN Climate Change Summit galvanized government and industry to commit to environmental protection and sustainability. Across the globe, the cannabis industry can serve as an example of sustainable production practices. Many cannabis companies are committed to reducing their carbon footprint while meeting local regulations.
Some are transitioning to more ecologically healthy methods such as LED lighting, solar power and water reclamation systems. Initiatives and technology to promote sustainability, including reducing water and energy usage, reducing waste and packaging, and supporting environmental programs can cement cannabis’ position as an earth-conscious industry.
From housing and food insecurity to climate change, cannabis is disrupting the global industrial complex for the better.
A serious discussion of cannabis and its impact could not be timelier, and Davos is the ideal context given this year’s Sustainability theme.
It’s time for the delegates at Davos to join the global cannabis conversation.
Saul Kaye is the Founder and CEO of iCAN an Israel based accelerator of innovative cannabis related companies and CannaTech, a global cannabis industry conference founded with the mission of expanding the global cannabis ecosystem and contributing to the ongoing post-prohibition dialogue. This week in Davos, The CannaTech Davos Cannabis House will be hosting leading cannabis experts to discuss the role of cannabis in the future.
Image by Javier Hasse.
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