VIEW | At Cape Town’s newest members-only cannabis club

0
88

Cannibisters Cannabis Club in Cape Town (Photo: Luke Daniel / Business Insider South Africa)

  • South Africa’s cannabis industry has grown rapidly since the landmark 2018 Constitutional Court ruling that decriminalized private and personal use of the plant.
  • This ruling also gave entrepreneur Pierre Sarembock the courage to open a cannabis club in Cape Town.
  • Cannibisters in Sea Point opened its doors in late 2021 and has already attracted more than 200 members.
  • The club does not sell Dagga products, but ‘shares’ and ‘trades’ with members paying R100 a month.
  • Drinking alcohol or smoking cigarettes is strictly prohibited in the club.
  • For more stories, visit www.BusinessInsider.co.za.

Cape Town’s newest cannabis club opened its doors in late 2021, offering members access to more than 60 products, an in-house Chinese medicine doctor, coffee and a remote workspace.

South Africa’s cannabis industry is growing rapidly. The catalyst for this growth was a landmark 2018 ruling by the Constitutional Court, which decriminalized the private and personal use of dagga, thus starting the wheels of commercialization.

According to the Department of Agriculture, Land Reform and Rural Development (DALRRD), which released a first draft of its cannabis master plan in 2021, the industry is valued at around R28 billion and could create up to 25,000 jobs.

The plan aims to unlock the tremendous economic potential of cannabis by making South Africa a major export center and industrializing the plant to empower communities and benefit growers. But that plan is still in its infancy and will require legislation — the Cannabis for Private Purposes Bill — to build on the Constitutional Court ruling.

Cannabis Club Cape Town South Africa

A sample of a floral product at Cannibisters Cannabis Club in Cape Town (Photo: Luke Daniel / Business Insider South Africa)

Exclusive cannabis clubs have now sprung up all over South Africa. One such club, promoting the responsible use of Dagga for recreational and medicinal purposes, recently opened in Sea Point.

“I’ve been waiting for the legalization process, and it’s been a very, very long wait,” Pierre Sarembock, founder of Cannibisters, told Business Insider South Africa.

“It [the 2018 Constitutional Court ruling] gave me the balls to make my dream come true. The moment this verdict came out that you can grow your own for your own personal use, I went out and bought a tent and started growing my own in a small way.”

Cannabis Club Cape Town South Africa

Pierre Sarembock. Cannibisters Cannabis Club in Cape Town (Photo: Luke Daniel / Business Insider South Africa)

Sarembock’s entry into the cannabis business came almost 40 years ago when, at the age of 19, having recently left South Africa for New York, he began selling cannabis to finance his studies. The dream of one day owning a cannabis club came a year later on a trip to Amsterdam.

“The bulldog [in Amsterdam] was one of the first clubs to open and most of the older clubs have dungeons you walk down to with burglar bars where you can look through the burglars and see what they have handwritten on the board [saying] what’s there, at that price, and you can’t touch it,” Sarembock said.

“My mom said ‘go to The Bulldog’ and I thought it was the most disgusting experience I could imagine. I felt like I was hitting dope like I used to hit dope. You buy weed at a bar that serves alcohol, I thought that concept was weird [and] it was a complete turnoff.”

Cannabis Club Cape Town South Africa

Cannibisters Cannabis Club in Cape Town (Photo: Luke Daniel / Business Insider South Africa)

It is this experience of The Bulldog and other similar cannabis clubs that has set clear parameters for Sarembock’s vision of a responsible, professional and clean club.

No alcohol or cigarettes are allowed at Cannibisters, which Sarembock describes as “baristas of fine cannabis.” The club is flooded with natural light, which is sprinkled through frosted windows overlooking Sea Point’s busy mainline.

Cannabis Club Cape Town South Africa

Weighing and sorting products to “share” with a member. Cannibisters Cannabis Club in Cape Town (Photo: Luke Daniel / Business Insider South Africa)

Most of the walls are pure white, some with Prohibition-era newspaper clippings about marijuana. A barista prepares coffee that can be infused with Dagga. Sofas and chairs are dotted throughout. Members connect to the wifi and work at tables. Oils, lotions, and paraphernalia can be seen behind the dispensing counter, but no flower is on display.

“We have a Chinese doctor who has been practicing for 24 years, and we waive a medicinal grade blending and dispensing license for patients who require medicinal cannabis in the form of flower, oil, edible or liquid,” he said.

Cannabis Club Cape Town South Africa

Cannibisters Cannabis Club in Cape Town (Photo: Luke Daniel / Business Insider South Africa)

Cannibisters members pay R100 a month and that gets them into the club. But cannabis products are not sold, they are “shared” or “exchanged”. This specific terminology allows the club to operate without violating applicable laws.

“The law says you can’t sell, but the law says you can be a member and with that membership you get the benefits of the club. So you are basically contributing to the other members that we share. It’s never a sellout,” Sarembock said.

Cannabis Club Cape Town South Africa

Cannibisters Cannabis Club in Cape Town (Photo: Luke Daniel / Business Insider South Africa)

Assisted by a team of lawyers, Sarembock has partnered with the South African Police Service (SAPS), the Department of Health and the South African Health Products Regulatory Agency (SAHPRA) to ensure cannibisters are not breaking the law.

The club, which opened its doors on December 31, 2021 but does not yet have an official opening and media day, already has more than 200 members. And while the sale and use of dagga has remained largely taboo in South Africa due to centuries-old prohibition laws, Sarembock said cannibisters have received the blessing of the Sea Point community.

A sample of cannabis lotions at Cape Town’s Cannibisters cannabis club (Photo: Luke Daniel / Business Insider South Africa)

Cannabis Club Cape Town South Africa

Cannibisters Cannabis Club in Cape Town (Photo: Luke Daniel / Business Insider South Africa)

“Our edibles are kosher and halal, which was one of my main things,” Sarembock said.

“I’m at Sea Point. I am Jewish. I rent from the synagogue that gave me the blessing to open the shop. For me, one of the biggest things was that I was blessed by my community to open up, and that community needed a health and wellness center where people could practice alternative medicine.”

Receive the best of our site by email every weekday.

Go to the Business Insider home page for more stories.