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How cannabis could unlock R107 billion for South Africa’s economy

Updated: Mar 17, 2022

South Africa could unlock a R107 billion cannabis industry if government passes the necessary regulations to make it happen.

The figure was put forward by international experts at a conference held in Sandton last week, as cited by the City Press.

According to the United Nations, South Africa is already the third-largest producer of marijuana and related products (hemp, oils, etc) on the African continent, producing 2,300 tons of the plant annually.

Only 3.5% of the population consume the product, the international body said, leaving the bulk of it ready for export to major cannabis consuming (and by-product) markets.

However, to do so, the South African government needs to pass the necessary laws.

Government is currently still working on regulations around the private use of cannabis, after the courts ruled that the act was protected under the constitution in September 2018.

The Constitutional court gave government two years (from the date of the ruling) to bring the country’s laws around cannabis use in line with the constitution.

Legislation around cultivation remains unclear, however.

The government has de-scheduled some types of cannabis health products, with conditions, making them easier to get hold of.

Cannabis products considered to be health supplements are those containing a daily dose of less than 20mg cannabidiol (CBD), as well as those containing less than 0.001% of THC, or less than 0.0075% CBD.

These products may be bought and sold relatively freely as a result of the exemption published in the Government Gazette on 23 May 2019.

In May and June of this year, both the Western Cape and Eastern Cape governments revealed plans to make the provinces the headline destinations for the country’s cannabis industries, pending favourable regulatory outcomes.

Both these provinces have been identified as having the ideal conditions for cannabis cultivation in the country, with proposals and feasibility studies already underway.

However, until the many grey areas in the regulation of cannabis have been clarified, the basic legal position on cannabis in South Africa is as follows:

  • You may use it for your personal recreational or medicinal use, alone or with friends and family over the age of 18, in spaces not open to groups other than your own.

  • Grow only as much as necessary for your personal use; where unsure, rather be conservative.

  • Other than in the case of specific health supplements and processed hemp fibre detailed above, buying and selling cannabis or any cannabis-containing product is currently not legally permissible.

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