Wine, cider and spirits company Distell will soon be able to offer cannabidiol-infused drinks after taking a 20% stake in cannabis wellness business Rethink, it said on Wednesday.

Distell’s investment gives it access to Rethink’s brand and product range, which includes oils, capsules and teas made from cannabidiol (CBD), a chemical compound found in the cannabis plant that is gaining popularity for uses ranging from relaxation to skin care.

CBD is one of a variety of compounds found in the cannabis plant but studies have found it does not cause a “high” or produce effects that could lead to addiction, according to the World Health Organisation.

Distell said the investment would help it to benefit from increased demand for cannabis products such as CBD.

“The cannabis sector is still in its infancy and primed for growth as legislation to control and legalise certain aspects of usage is developed,” Distell CEO Richard Rushton said in a statement, adding that the investment was in line with its strategy to explore new expansion opportunities.

The price for the stake in Rethink, created by herbal and organic pharmaceuticals firm Releaf Pharmaceuticals, was not disclosed. Invenfin, the venture capital arm of Distell's largest shareholder, Remgro, also took a 20% share in Rethink.

Distell and Invenfin said their partnership with Releaf Pharmaceuticals could produce a range of CBD brands and market leadership both in SA and other major markets. Distell said that included, but was not limited to, CBD-infused drinks.

Distell is currently grappling with the effect of a ban on alcohol in Sa, the third to be implemented since March 2020 as part of coronavirus restrictions. But hefty investments made in prior years have helped its recovery, it said in 2020.

It has been legal to sell CBD products in SA since 2019.


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