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STELLENBOSCH based strawberry farm, Polkadraai, has become the first to legally grow marijuana in the Western Cape. The cannabis company, Felbridge, was issued a licence by the South African Health Products Regulatory Authority following a two-year application process that began in October 2017.

The success of the application required a thorough police clearance, information on the company, Felbridge, and an established deal with foreign buyers for the produce.

Felbridge is predominantly owned by the Zetler family, also owners of Polkadraai. According to the company’s website, “Felbridge is committed to improving society via the proven medical benefits of cannabis in our everyday lives”.

The cost of an approved marijuana farm has been estimated to be between 3 and 5 million rands. Recent policies regarding marijuana, such as the removal of Cannabidiol (CBD) from the list of highly controlled drugs and the decriminalisation of the personal use of marijuana by the Constitutional Court have changed the face of the dagga industry in South Africa during the last few years.

In an interview with CapeTalk, Leslie Zetler discussed some of the aspects of the licence process and approval. The investment to diversify the strawberry farm has been costly and the family has invested “quite a bit” Zetler said.

The licence permits Felbridge to use 14 000 square metres of the strawberry farm to grow marijuana. Tests will be run on 150 square metres of the farm before the development of 5,000 square metres of dagga production proceeds.

In his interview with CapeTalk, Zetler said that this will only happen once Felbridge is “satisfied with the produce”.

According to Zetler the licence permits Felbridge to produce twenty tonnes of dried marijuana per year. Zetler says “yields are forecasted to happen between four to five times a year” and “the farm has possible future plans to increase production by extending the greenhouse”.

While the strawberry farm and pickings will remain, visitors will be picking strawberries on the same premises as the Western Cape’s first legal dagga farm. Zetler says the dagga grown on the farm will be on an “isolated patch which is more secure”.

According to Helena Wasserman, a financial journalist from Fin24, the industry may be a lucrative investment in the future.

“The South African domestic market for cannabis and related products, excluding consumer CBD products, will be worth around R27bn by 2023,” Wasserman said.

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