Canada-based wholesale cannabinoid company Instadose Pharma is working on de-stigmatising cannabis and establishing the world’s largest continual supply of medical cannabis, a rapidly growing market estimated at $20.5bn in 2020 and projected to reach $90.4bn by 2026.
The Canadian company has partnerships in South Africa, Mexico, North Macedonia and Portugal and plans to build relationships and joint ventures with other countries around the world. It is seeking to create a large commercial outdoor growing, cultivation, production and global distribution platform for medicinal cannabis and cannabinoid oil, which will provide drug companies with sustainable and low-cost supplies of high quality medicinal cannabis and cannabinoid oil for use in bulk as an active pharmaceutical ingredient.
David Curry, VP media and public relations at Instadose Pharma, told bne IntelliNews that the company is working on growing programmes in the developing world and argues that there are numerous benefits. Namely, cannabis is a high value crop and green renewable resource, and its cultivation can create jobs for many people in the developing world.
Instadose operations in North Macedonia
Instadose Pharma recently established an import route between North Macedonia, where it runs a 50%-owned subsidiary, Instadouz Farma (IDP Macedonia), and southern Africa.
In November, the company said it secured an import permit from the relevant agency in North Macedonia for the shipment of 2,125 kg of medical cannabis out of southern Africa, which was the second import permit it received in the Balkan country. In April the company sent the first shipment of 176 kg to North Macedonia.
The cannabis is sourced from Lesotho and South Africa, and shipped from South Africa.
"This will be the first full load when completed," Curry told bne IntelliNews, adding that Instadose has extensive contracts with various joint venture partners around the globe.
According to him, the product is designated for the medicinal cannabis market and there are various customers, which have different requirements depending on how the constituent ingredients are to be used.
Supplying the EU market
Instadose Pharma launched operations in North Macedonia in October 2019.
“The country has favourable conditions to do business and has an excellent geographic location to the EU,” Curry said. North Macedonia has been an EU candidate country since 2005.
Its Macedonian unit Instadouz Farma is a fully licensed processor of cannabinoid oil for export and sale located in the southeastern town of Strumica.
“North Macedonia is a progressive country looking to develop its economy and Instadose has been honoured to be working with the government of North Macedonia and its business partners," Curry said.
Asked why the company imports medical cannabis when North Macedonia has legalised the growing of the plant, he said that the scale required for medical cannabis supply requires large and continuous volume year round.
“Many areas in Africa where Instadose is working with its growing partners are able to supply that continuous and consistent quality on an ongoing basis throughout the year,” Curry stated.
He revealed that Instadose Pharma plans to continue to develop its business in North Macedonia and increase volumes imported from partners not only from southern Africa, but with many partners in Africa and around the world.
Skopje legalised the use of medical cannabis in 2016, when now opposition VMRO-DPMNE was on power. Thus, North Macedonia became one of the few countries in the world that allows the cultivation and export of cannabis products, opening doors for investors.
In November 2020, Social Democrat Prime Minister Zaev said that he supports the decriminalisation and legalisation of cannabis consumption, saying that this will help the tourism and hospitality industry in the country.
In previous years, North Macedonia’s market already showed serious growth potential which attracted local and foreign investors.
The country has implemented a free market approach to cannabis cultivation, distribution and sale, using Canada’s approach, according to Bearstone Global’s market analysis for North Macedonia released in April 2019.
North Macedonia’s drug company Replek Farm was the first in the country to begin marketing this product in 2016, which quickly followed by the Skopje-based NYSK Holding which started production in May 2017.
The industry grew rapidly in 2017 with an additional five companies entering the medical cannabis sector. In 2018, several other companies such as Farma Medica Cannabis, F&M, Green Life, Cannabis Pro, ACPV, and THC Quality Group and Farmarolli obtained permits for cannabis cultivation.
In June 2021, NYSK Holdings became the first company in North Macedonia to receive a license to export dried cannabis flowers, which was needed for the company to start exports to Poland.
North Macedonia is now utilising the sale of the plant for economic purposes, to reduce jobless rate and to boost the industry locally, according to the report.
The majority of the product is cultivated using the so-called ‘indoor technology’, and some is grown in greenhouses.
According to the Prohibition Partners' European Cannabis Report released in April 2021, the European cannabis market is forecast to reach $3.8bn by 2025.
Curry said that cannabis will continue to develop as a commodity and market forces will determine the price. Current cost price for indoor grown cannabis is relatively high compared with outdoor grown cannabis.
Instadose in Africa
About the African market, Curry said that many countries, particularly in central and southern Africa, have long histories of growing cannabis, but the evolution and development growing programmes for medicinal cannabis is still in its infancy.
“Instadose works with its growing partners and the local, regional and national governments in Africa to help to develop these opportunities,” he said.
The market in South Africa has grown in recent years, particularly after the ruling of the Constitutional Court in 2018, which decriminalised forms of personal consumption of cannabis, which caused interest from abroad in the cannabis industry to increase.
According to Curry, there is a long colonial legacy and stigma in many places that needs to be overcome, however, he underlined that the cannabis is green renewable resource and a high value crop that has the potential to have many benefits related to socio-economic development, food and water security.
“Speaking of the economic impact, this plant is a high value crop relative to other crops, or 50 to 70 times more valuable than a crop like corn or potatoes. So when looking at impacts if we are talking about a crop that sells for dollars at the farm gate per kilo rather than pennies per kilo in places where the majority of farmers are women this is going to have a direct impact on what that person, family or community can do,” Curry said.
"Countries want to have conversations about legalising cannabis or developing growing programmes because of the power that this crop has to assist in socio-economic development. This is a long road and we need to help start that conversation and work with our partners, which inevitably is going to be the foundation of all companies who work in this area," he stated.
In a country like Canada, where it is now legal, the change in the perception of cannabis in recent years is vast and the stigma has rapidly fallen away, according to Curry.
Green renewable resource
Curry agued that cannabis and hemp plants, unlike mining, are a green renewable resource that contributes to carbon sequestering though the way the plant captures carbon, and the beneficial changes it can have on the biome of the soil as the complex soil and fungi are fundamental to the carbon cycle.
“Improved soil health is something people are becoming more and more aware of and something that modern agricultural practices like tilling and fertilising run counter to. Cannabis is an excellent durable plant that helps improve soil quality by increasing the complexity and biodiversity of the soil with relatively little inputs,” he said.
He said that in developing countries, where there could be multiple crops in a year, cannabis could be a big contributor on turning the tide against climate change though simply growing the plant and increasing the fertility of the soil. This is a relatively new area, however, but one that is receiving a great deal of attention.
"I am sure that there will be an ever increasing and overwhelming body of evidence supporting cannabis and hemp and its benefits to the environment," Curry said.