It was inevitable that, after the 2018 Constitutional Court ruling that decriminalised the private use of cannabis in South Africa, hemp- and marijuana-extract products would find their way into our boutiques, department stores, and spas. And shift stereotypes about who welcomes weed into their lives. Already, Business Day reports that Africa’s legal cannabis industry could generate more than $7.1-billion a year by 2023 if more of the continent’s major markets follow the trend of legalisation.
Joanne Hope is the founder of female-focused local brand KushKush, who, as part of wanting to “cultivate a refreshing and inspired representation of cannabis culture”, curates and sells online, “beautiful but functional premium cannabis lifestyle products and nifty, specialised tools”.
Many, mostly-imported, items up for sale, like a small, round solid-brass grinder (R1,840), and crystal ashtray with sustainable black-walnut wood detail (R1,800), could live happily just as objets d’art on your coffee table. Then there are beauty and wellness products such as CBD intimacy and face oils (both R825) by Kiskanu that would delight any beauty influencer’s bathroom cabinet. Kiskanu is a small, family-owned-and-operated business based in California, led by a woman.
KushKush is certainly marketed to le beau monde but also serves as “a safe space for like-minded women (who have an open, curious and progressive approach towards cannabis) to connect, network, learn, share and feel at home”. Hope says the inspiration for the business came about shortly after the ruling and she found herself “standing in a seedy ‘head’ shop in Cape Town”, waiting for her boyfriend to buy a vaporiser. She says, “I was shocked at how poor the retail experience was: the shop was dingy, and crammed with disorganised piles of product. It put me off shopping there and I felt too intimidated to ask the many questions I had.”
First she spoke to girlfriends who were also interested in art, fashion, decor, design and weed, and found they felt the same way she did about the options available. Then she researched other markets like Canada (medical cannabis was legalised in 2001 and for recreational use in 2018) that were further along in terms of cannabis normalisation. She was inspired by what she found: “a vibrant community of strong, positive, entrepreneurial women from all walks of life who are doing great work in building an exciting but sustainable new industry”.
Back in the US, one of those women, actress Gwyneth Paltrow, had trotted the green plant and its benefits into the high-end lifestyle space at the 2018 Los Angeles conference of her wellness brand, Goop, along with other messages and products around alternative healing. This, 10 years after she first started Gooping the world in 2008. Currently touting an emerald green facial elixir made from hempseed oil by skincare brand Votary (costing over R1,800), Goop takes the benefits of cannabis very seriously.
Beyond skincare and infused cocktails, Paltrow admitted to talk-show host Howard Stern that she does indulge in the high life occasionally, and even popped CBD-infused bath bombs into goodie bags at Goop’s LA meetup.
It’s important to make a quick note of the weed family here. Hemp contains a much higher percentage of CBD (cannabidiol, a type of cannabinoid), only trace amounts of THC (tetrahydrocannabinol) and won’t get you high, whereas marijuana has plenty of THC and much less CBD. Cannabinoids are chemical compounds that make up the cannabis plant. According to another premium SA wellness brand called Goodleaf, founded by Jenni Katz and Warren Schewitz, “there are over 113 unique cannabinoids, CBD and THC being the most well-known and studied”.
A 2018 health report from Harvard Medical School says, “CBD is commonly used to address anxiety, and for patients who suffer through the misery of insomnia, studies suggest that CBD may help with both falling asleep and staying asleep.”
Chances are that if you’re applying a cream on your skin or dropping oil into your mouth, the CBD is from the hemp plant. Both THC and CBD have separate and different therapeutic qualities but, because CBD is non-psychoactive, that’s what companies will infuse beauty and health products with.
There hasn’t been enough scientific research on the effects of CBD on the skin, but it seems to help with chronic pain, stress, and reduction of inflammation. A happy benefit is the treatment of acne, eczema, psoriasis, and rosacea.
Dr Jennifer Vickers, a dermatologist based in Texas, tells The Zoe Report that “some studies have shown that topical CBD can also help reduce oil production in addition to reducing inflammation in the skin, which are two main players in the generation of acne”, and “that the anti-inflammatory effects can help calm skin and reduce redness, too”.
With beautifully designed stores in Cape Town, Joburg, and Pretoria, Goodleaf’s top-selling topical product is a CBD glow serum (R395), which also contains African botanicals like mongongo oil (rich in Vitamin E) and baobab oil (high in omega fatty acids) to replenish moisture and target signs of fatigue. But its bestseller is its oral-use CBD drops for R1,595, which contains 1,500mg of organic, broad-spectrum hemp extract plus MCT oil (extracted from coconut oil). It also makes a yummy CBD-infused sparkling water flavoured with mango and ginger (R225 for a 12-pack).
Of course, the luxury market — and the beauty market in particular — always needs a new story to tell to entice cosmetic junkies. It’s difficult to ignore the buzzy ingredient that was illegal not too long ago. Mainstream brands are already on the bandwagon.
Kiehl’s sells a cannabis sativa seed oil herbal concentrate, said to fight acne and reduce redness, for around R800, while overseas brand Sephora launched Saint Jane, a botanical-rich, luxury CBD beauty brand, about a year ago. Its bestselling product is the Luxury CBD beauty serum, (R2,100), which promises to detoxify pores and boost the skin’s natural glow, while hemp molecules work to “visibly calm redness, clear blemishes, and deeply restore” skin. We wonder when Dior and Chanel might follow suit.
Already, Joburg’s Life Day Spa and Renaissance Day Spa offer CBD cannabis-oil massage rituals for R790 and R850 respectively. A report by Big Market Research says that the global CBD skincare market is expected to reach close to R60-billion in six years from now, growing at a healthy rate of 24.8% between 2019 and 2026.
Here at home, questions are being raised about the industry’s sustainability, using local crops and supporting growers whose income has long been from growing hemp and marijuana — in particular, generations of women in the Eastern Cape who have been small-scale farmers for over 200 years.
A Forbes piece on Saint Jane founder and CEO Casey Georgeson says “she personally sources the company’s hemp from sustainable, female-owned farms”. Meanwhile, Hope says she hopes to play a role in normalisation by “offering a judgement free space for the higher-end female cannabis consumer”.
This kind of entrepreneurial trailblazing is a big departure from anything to do with the plant being seen as undesirable, criminal, and seedy.
• From the April issue of Wanted 2020.