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When people zol in Montagu

Written by Mickey Mentz

People zol. South African Minister of Cooperative Governance and Traditional Affairs, Nkosazana Dlamini Zuma, taught us as much and although her theories about zolling proved to be more comical than educational, people did not stop zolling.

If anything, the 2020 tobacco ban meant that more people turned to zol as an alternative.

People zol for various reasons and in recent times the same government officials who warned the public against the dangers of sharing a zol have indirectly stated that zolling is a safer practice than boozing.

In Montagu, however, zol has become serious business – and we are not talking about zol sales.

In this Klein Karoo town groundbreaking work is being conducted in one of the fastest growing industries in the world.

This is thanks to the team at QURE that has recognised the importance of testing the potency of “zol” in their cannabis analytical laboratory.

Brenda Marx of QURE testing a cannabis sample for a client

At the QURE lab they provide reliable, accurate and consistent information to their clients that puts them in a position to know what they are growing (within the legal framework) and how to develop standards for their products.

The result is quality assurance to the end-users who, very often, rely on cannabis products to deal with chronic pain and illnesses.

All the testing is done under the experienced eye of Laboratory director Brenda Marx who discovered the medicinal advantages of cannabis treatment a few years ago after she had to undergo surgery in both her shoulders.

Montagu just so happens to be the mountain climbers’ Mecca

“Whether you want to produce the best daggakoekies or world class cannabis oil to export to a rapidly growing international market, it is vitally important for the farmer or producer to be able to accurately gauge the strength and potency of the end product.

“Without this knowledge the healing qualities of the cannabis plant will not be fully utilised”.

This rare testing facility – very few laboratories possess the equipment and skills needed to conduct cannabis testing – will in time be recognized as one of the pioneers of a multi-billion rand industry that has been touted to become a key economic recovery driver post Covid-19.

The Department of Trade and Industry and the Agricultural Research Council have estimated that the current informal and formal cannabis industry in South Africa is worth R14-billion and by 2024 this could rise to R28 billion which will constitute 70% of the R44-billion of the estimated African market.

Add to that the fact that the alcohol industry suffered losses in excess of 100 million litres in sales volumes, and an estimated R4.3-billion in revenue due to lockdown restrictions, and it is no wonder that many industrial farmers are seriously considering switching to cannabis.

Barrydale artist Cherie Dirksen’s recent cannabis designs

Cannabis is also a very resilient plant which needs far less water than many traditional wine cultivars – making it an even more lucrative industrial farming option while the global temperatures continue to rise.

While they conduct potency, cannabinoid and terpene profiling as well as residual solvents and microbial count at QURE they are also able to report on the presence of mycotoxins, heavy metals and pesticides in cannabis plants.

They have thus identified that the industry needs to be regulated to ensure the safety of end products and the result is that as the weeks pass more and more end users are starting to look out for the QURE stamp of approval on their products.

While Brenda head’s up the lab, she is joined by Kris de Jager who is a founding member of the Cannabis Industrial Development Council of the Western Cape (CIDC-WC).

Kris consults to the agricultural and extractive industries on cannabis propagation, breeding and genetic mapping as well as disease treatment.

Then IT specialist Jean Jeffery ensures that the team is kept abreast of latest developments in the industry. Jean is a founding member, secretary and acting treasurer of the Association of Compassion – a primary co-operative that advocates whole plant medicinal cannabis and was established to lobby for an environment in which patients have legal and safe access to their cannabis medicine, the implementation of testing and the implementation of high-quality standards.

Finally, the implementation of findings in and around the laboratory is the responsibility of the horticulture and agriculture expert Natie Ferreira. Natie is a founding member and treasurer of the Cannabis Industrial Development Council of the Western Cape (“CIDC-WC”) and founding member and chairman of the Association of Compassion.

He has been involved in many large-scale cannabis projects and has a reputation for being a pioneer in the industry.

Why Montagu?

Brenda sported a non-cannabis educed smile when she answered this question.

Sure, a number of farmers in the area had already followed the protocols to become legal cannabis producers, but that was not why Brenda selected this specific town to host her lab.

Her agenda was far simpler – she’s an avid mountain climber and Montagu just so happens to be the mountain climbers’ Mecca.

“After using cannabis products to ease the pain after I had the shoulder surgery, the scientist in me knew that I could produce a better product. With my experience in essential oils I soon proved this theory and I then noticed the gap in the market.”

In a bold move she took out a second mortgage on her house and purchased the equipment she needed to get the project off the ground.

Six months later QURE was established and her only requisite was that she could operate from a place where she could also satisfy her rock climbing needs.

QURE has been operating in Montagu since August 2019.

As for the community’s reaction to this new revolutionary business, Brenda said that people in the platteland are far more “open minded than you may think”.

“Since cannabis was decriminalized people have started seeing it in a different light and over the last few years we have noticed a growing curiosity in all sectors of society.”

For more information on QURE or to book a cannabis test phone 27 81 337 0588 or visit their website qure.co.za

About the author

Mickey Mentz

From my Barrydale base, my goal is to tell the stories of people and places on the picturesque R62. Ek het oor die jare 'n cappuccino verslawing ontwikkel en my hond se naam is Karoolus.

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