South Africans Push For Fully Legalized Cannabis Industry

Written by Peter Pedroncelli
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Medicinal use is legal and cultivation for personal recreational use is to be legalized but selling cannabis at any scale remains illegal in South Africa. Image created by Moguldom

South Africans are pushing for the potentially lucrative cannabis industry to be fully legalized in a country where unemployment is high and the struggling economy is in need of a boost.

In September 2018, the South African constitutional court ruled that the recreational use of cannabis was no longer a criminal offense

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

So while medicinal use is legal and cultivation for personal recreational use is in the process of being legalized, selling cannabis at any scale remains, for the most part, illegal in South Africa, according to Businesstech.

South Africans have been calling for the industry to be legalized on social media.

Sphamandla Buthelezi says that cannabis should be legalized and countries that give South Africans visa-free access should be prioritized as trade partners.

Buthelezi wrote on Twitter, “Fully legalize Cannabis farming for all (Distribute 200ha of land for cannabis farming every year for 5 years) Minimize trade with the US Americans and most Europe (Hike trade with the 100 countries that Visa Freed South Africa).”

Matilda Malope believes that cannabis could be the key to a better economy. “Legalise and commercialize marijuana, hemp and cannabis then South Africa will be on the path to Health & Wealth,” she tweeted.

Alexander Dowding believes that the way forward is clear. “I can’t believe that people are still questioning whether to fully legalize and regulate cannabis in South Africa. It is a no-brainer,” he said.

South Africa’s sluggish economy is forecast to grow at around 0.9 percent in 2020 and the unemployment rate is at 29 percent.

A legalized cannabis industry in South Africa could be worth more than $1.7 billion annually by 2023, according to the African Cannabis Report, the first detailed report on the legal cannabis industry in Africa.

A fully legalized cannabis industry would likely create desperately-needed jobs. South Africa has the potential to be the second-biggest African market after Nigeria for cannabis and related products such as hemp and oils, according to the research presented by strategic consultancy firm Prohibition Partners.

In November 2019, a Cape Town strawberry farm was issued the first commercial license to cultivate cannabis in South Africa. The license is for growing cannabis but not for manufacturing any end products for sale or consumption, reports EWN.

The Polkadraai strawberry farm is licensed to cultivate 20 tonnes of dried cannabis but must sell the product to a company in Lesotho — where cannabis is fully legalized — so that it can be manufactured into medicinal products. 

This is because it is illegal in South Africa to manufacture medicinal cannabis products, according to Businesstech.

There are 1.25 million cannabis farmers in South Africa, according to World Health Organization estimates. At least 350,000 African cannabis farmers are traditional healers who give the plant to others for its medicinal benefits.

But acquiring a commercial license and setting up a cannabis farm is expensive and inaccessible for most South Africans. The estimated cost of setting up a facility and preparing an application costs between $200,000 and $336,000, according to a report by Landbouweekblad.

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South African finance minister Tito Mboweni has asked his Twitter followers to weigh in on whether or not the cannabis industry in South Africa should be fully legalized, according to Fin24.

Mboweni is excited at the prospect of a legalized cannabis industry and the boost it could provide to tax collection and the South African economy.

Mboweni posted images on Twitter of cannabis being grown throughout South Africa, asking his Twitter following of more than 480,000 followers if they were in favor of legalization. 

Mboweni promised to propose a fully legalized cannabis industry to his colleagues in the South African parliament.