For millennia, cannabis has been used for its medicinal properties in India, China, Africa and the Middle East. Today, there is no longer any debate about the use of this plant for medicinal purposes. “There is no official data showing that cannabis is addictive,” says Sonaal Ramlugon, doctor of biochemistry.

> You work in a South African laboratory. What factors led to this opportunity?

After graduation, I was looking for a job and wanted to work in the cannabis industry. Since all my postgraduate studies and research were focused on medical cannabis. Luckily, I came across this opportunity. This company gave me the chance to prove myself. I am currently its Processing Lab Project Lead.

> Was there an interest from the start to study cannabis or did it come gradually? You are Mauritian and you know what unfavorable opinion is being peddled in the local collective consciousness…

For my degree with honors, I had the privilege of choosing my research topic since I was awarded best undergraduate student (Merck Prize). That’s when I started researching and working on cannabis. My parents also encouraged me to pursue this field, because they knew its medicinal potential.

Unfortunately, what I've noticed is that the less someone knows, the stronger their opinion on this topic. It's a really sad situation. I hope this will change as people start getting the right information from the right sources.

> How did you manage to convince yourself of the therapeutic virtues of cannabis and to detach yourself from the prejudices linked to this plant, considered a drug, even if 'mild'?

Cannabis has been used for thousands of years for recreational and medicinal purposes. By doing intensive research from good sources (e.g. Google Scholar) and physically conducting experiments and analyzing data, I am convinced of its potential medicinal properties.
> What is your position with regard to a school of thought which considers that the consumption of cannabis can lead to the use of hard drugs?

Sugar, coffee, chocolates (to name a few) are addictive substances and are not considered drugs. On the other hand, there is no official data that shows that cannabis is addictive.

Cannabis is not to blame when an individual falls into hard drug use. It is his choice and his refusal to accept responsibility for his action. He would rather be in denial than be responsible.

Within many cultures around the world, such as the Rasta community, and in many parts of India, cannabis is widespread. However, these communities are vegetarian, do not consume alcohol and do not fall into the trap of harder drugs. In the illegal cannabis trade, other drugs are mixed with it to ensure regular consumption. Perhaps this is why people seek harder drugs. Hence the need for laboratory-certified medical grade cannabis.

> How did the medical cannabis industry take off in South Africa? Was there any reluctance at the start?

I believe the country started by recognizing that cannabis should not be considered a hard drug. Then, the medical properties of cannabis through research and development were highlighted. Which led to its decriminalization. The industry took off when the private sector began doing research and development. She collaborated with the academic sector, leading to the creation of a highly sought-after cannabis center.

> How can we dissociate cannabis from hard drugs and allow a medical cannabis sector to become an economic pillar in Mauritius?

We need to educate ourselves and get accurate and correct information. So many countries have decriminalized and eventually legalized the use of medical cannabis. This is because the population is intelligent and shares unbiased opinions and viewpoints.

To make it an economic pillar, the country will have to follow guidelines and respect strict standards. Discussions, academic research and development must be promoted. We must disseminate good scientific information to the public. A fair and open framework must be structured from farmers to medical research and treatment facilities. As I do not consider myself the right person to give advice on economic aspects, I cannot elaborate further. I'm sure there are other professionals who can do this.

> What do your loved ones think of your professional activity?

They are very intrigued by what I do and always ask me if one day I see myself doing the same thing in Mauritius.

> What conditions has South Africa created for the establishment of the medical cannabis sector?

• Licensing by regulatory bodies such as the South African Health Products Regulatory Authority to manufacture medical cannabis. It must comply with good manufacturing practices to ensure product safety and quality.
• Strict quality assurance and control. Once again, to ensure product quality and safety, there is rigorous testing and documentation. The process is documented, traceable and transparent.

• Investment and infrastructure (building, HVAC system, etc.) and processes from start to finish. They meet established standards.

> What are the conditions in terms of resources available to all of your colleagues to carry out their research?

We have state-of-the-art equipment and facilities as well as a highly qualified and experienced team in their respective fields.

> There is already a laboratory engaged in medical cannabis processing, doesn't the prospect of working or collaborating there tempt you?

I didn't even know that such a structure existed in Mauritius. I'm really glad there is one. It shows progress and looks promising for the healthcare sector. I would be happy if I could be of help to you.

> Generally speaking, how is the sector of so-called 'alternative' therapies doing, have they been taken into account by the major laboratories?

I can't say much about it. Appropriate scientific research and development is carried out. If the data is relevant, it is worth exploring the available options. We need to figure out which ones work best for people’s health. Taking this into account by large laboratories could help reduce dependence on manufactured drugs.

> Africa and India have been at the forefront of the fight for the marketing of generics, in order to put medicines within the reach of the most deprived people, has this fight been won?

Although all efforts are being made through various means and even with signs of significant progress, I would say that this battle is far from won. The underlying problems are numerous and beyond my scope as a scientist.

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