We catch up with Cornel Van Der Watt aka The White Lion
We had the pleasure of interviewing Cornel Van Der Watt of White Lion Holdings Cannabis Consultancy where he shared his story and his thoughts around the challenges of regulation, corporate, his hopes for the local market and his involvement in the application of licenses in SA.
Originally from New Castle Kwa-Zulu Natal, in a conservative Christian community in apartheid South Africa, a sports player who smoked cannabis from an early age and noticed that cannabis did not impact his performance negatively, like alcohol did. Little did he know he would become one of the most prominent figures in the cannabis market.
Cornel studied Chemical Engineering and after the second year decided to drop out of university and put his white lab coat away to travel to the USA in the early 90’s where he did Hotel Management for a while before travelling across 44 states over 5 years. He found himself in the cannabis space when the recreational market was booming in the snow mountains in Northern California all the way through to Albuquerque state New Mexico to Texas where he learnt glass blowing and as a person who loved paraphernalia, it was a no brainer tp bring it back to South Africa in 1999 where it was a brand new thing.
When he came back, he got into the indoor cannabis market and used bongs and pipes as a front as the laws were very tight at the time.
He was then approached by master cultivator and head breeder late Franco Loja and his friend Arjan Roskam of Amsterdam based Green House Seed company to work with them and later got a position at the UKZN chemistry department where they did scientific glass blowing and set up extraction for PhD and post grad students, thereby also receiving free lab time.
He went on to do community upliftment programs for large scale growing in the Transkei and Swaziland as well as starting the first grow in Lesotho.
Cornel has earned so many stripes and to represent this, he is always dressed in camo! What an honour to speak to someone of this caliber, to call him ‘master’ would be an understatement.