South Africa gets its first online cannabis university

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South Africans who would want to enter the cannabis industry or add cannabis expertise to their skills set now have an option to do so anywhere and at any time as far as there is an internet connection.

Cheeba Africa, a cannabis health and wellness company selling all kinds of cannabis products, has introduced the country’s first online academy that deals with cannabis specifically.

The company’s Cheeba Cannabis Academy, which is Africa’s first dedicated cannabis academy, has opened its online portal providing short courses that touch on the general information and medical aspects about cannabis, including its use and effects on the body as well its laws and regulations.

The online portal is being operated in partnership with a similar U.S.-based institution called Medical Marijuana 411, though courses have been updated to localize content where relevant.

Marijuana or cannabis remains a controversial drug, yet, globally, more and more states are passing laws to allow the sale of marijuana in some form. In Africa, countries like Zimbabwe, Lesotho, and South Africa are beginning to tap into the profitable industry following the global rise in the use of cannabis.

In South Africa, the marijuana industry alone is expected to be worth more than $7.1 billion annually by 2023, according to market intelligence and strategic consultancy firm Prohibition Partner.

The online academy has, therefore, come at the right time, analysts say, as the provision of training and education is crucial to ensure the sustainability and growth of the industry.

“Cannabis has the potential to positively impact our economy, facilitating large-scale job creation, uplifting low-income communities, especially in under-served rural areas as well as contributing to the overall improvement of people’s health.

“However, in order for this to happen, we need to provide opportunities for people to develop industry-specific skills. Cheeba Africa is proud to be the first contributor in this space” said Trenton Birch, co-founder of the Cheeba Cannabis Academy.

The short courses, which are currently available online and open for enrolment, are the Medical Professional Course, Medical Professional Bundle Course, Cannabis 101, and Cannabis Fundamentals.

“Our Cannabis 101 course contains general information about Cannabis, the basic science of “why” Cannabis works with our own endocannabinoid system, differences between CBD and THC (you don’t have to get high to use the healing properties of the plant), the law and types of products that are available,” the academy says on its website.

The Medical Professional Bundle Course is largely for medical professionals. “You will learn about the legal framework of working with medical marijuana patients, the basics of the cannabis plant, the Endocannabinoid System, and how cannabinoid receptors work with our bodies,” according to the academy.

The courses range from R1,100 (approx. CAD$90) to R3,900 (approx. CAD$300) and depending on the course selected, students can get a certificate within a year. However, they won’t be locally recognized as the academy is not yet accredited.

“Cheeba is busy with a few South African accreditations, which we will announce once they are confirmed,” said Birch whose academy’s advisory board includes doctors, pharmacists and other industry experts.

Cheeba Cannabis Academy joins the growing number of colleges that are adding cannabis courses to their curriculum and even offering complete degree programs.

The move has basically been necessitated by the increasing demand for qualified employees across the cannabis industry supply chain and the increasing need for medical professionals to safely advise patients about medical cannabis, said Cannabiz media.

Marijuana, in several parts of the world, is being used to alleviate suffering from cancer, HIV and AIDS, and other deadly diseases.

Critics, however, fear that relaxing laws on its use can lead to drug abuse and other crime-related activities. In South Africa, private use of marijuana locally referred to as dagga, is not a criminal offense.

“It will not be a criminal offense for an adult person to use or be in possession of cannabis in private for his or her personal consumption,” South Africa’s Deputy Chief Justice Raymond Zondo said in a landmark ruling in 2018.

The ruling was welcomed by thousands of marijuana users in South Africa who had, over the years, been organizing marches on the streets of Cape Town asking for drug laws to be amended in order to reap the medicinal and recreational benefits of cannabis.