The Department of Agriculture, Land Reform and Rural Development recently released a draft national cannabis master plan aimed at commercialising the cannabis industry and turning marijuana into a viable business sector for the country. The proposed government legislation relaxes existing restrictions on cannabis. The aim of which is to establish a globally competitive cannabis industry in South Africa, produce more cannabis for local and export purposes and increase investment in cannabis research.
Last year, the government published the draft Cannabis for Private Purposes Bill for public comment. As part of the newly drafted master plan, it is the intention to sign the Cannabis for Private Purposes Bill into law by the 2022/2023 financial year. This follows the ruling by the Constitutional Court in September 2018 which legalised the use, possession, and cultivation of cannabis in private dwellings in South Africa. While the private use of cannabis has been legalised, the buying or selling of cannabis remains illegal.
During a webinar for the presentation of the government’s draft master plan, speakers showed consensus on the fact that a regulatory policy system that eliminates ambiguity for entrepreneurs is necessary. Currently, the SA cannabis industry is worth billions (R27 billion according to one estimate) and might be the answer to boosting South Africa’s economy following the economic downturn due to Covid19. Interpol has even ranked South Africa in the top 5 exporters of illegal cannabis in the world. With the industry still operating completely underground, it’s a matter of urgency that legislation opens up to allow the industry to grow thereby creating more jobs, promoting development, and boosting the economy.
The main takeaways from the proposed bill:
- Removing existing constraints that hinder commercialisation
- The intention to implement breeding programs for new dagga and hemp cultivars
- Supporting research and development programs for the cannabis industry
- Mobilising and supporting farmers to actively participate in the cultivation of cannabis plants
- Establishing a new domestic market for cannabis in South Africa
- Developing new export markets for the local cannabis industry to contribute to
- Including indigenous growers in the value chain
- Developing the manufacturing and product development of the cannabis industry
- Supporting education and training in the industry
- Eliminating ambiguity for entrepreneurs looking to capitalise on opportunities in the cannabis industry
At present, commercial opportunities in the industry are limited to farmers who can obtain a license to either export their yield or supply it to a laboratory that has the necessary licenses for the treatment, processing, and manufacturing of cannabis-related products. This is insufficient and hinders the benefits the economy can get from legalisation.
While the draft master plan still presents limitations, it’s a step in the right direction to commercialising the cannabis industry and the South African economy reaping the benefits.