South Africa reveals plans to encourage $1.9 billion cannabis industry

27th August 2021

South Africa’s government has unveiled its ‘master plan’ to bolster the country’s fledgling cannabis sector and harness the potential of a $1.9 billion industry. It is hoped that the plans will boost South Africa’s economy by creating 25,000 jobs and attracting foreign investment.

Cannabis was legalised for personal use by adults in private spaces in South Africa in 2018, despite opposition from the government. The country’s highest court also ruled unanimously to permit the cultivation of cannabis for personal consumption.

However, the use of cannabis in public places, as well as the sale and supply remained prohibited – until now.

The Department of Agriculture, Land Reform and Rural Development led a two-year process to develop a strategy for the industrialisation and commercialisation of cannabis. The document combined aspects of existing models such as those seen in the US, Canada, and Mexico.

“Establishment of the cannabis industry will lead to diversification of the economy and thus increase economic growth, create jobs and for poverty alleviation,” the department said Wednesday in a presentation to a committee of lawmakers.

The Department also recognised potential legislative restrictions and “the threat of takeover or dominance” by established and well-funded companies and pharmacy groups as the main challenges to the industry.

The cannabis ‘master plan’ lays out plans for encouraging the cultivation of hemp and cannabis plants to be used for a wide variety of applications, from medicines and foods to recreational products. It is hoped that, once implemented, the plan would allow for the effective upscaling of production, within a suitable regulatory and legal system, for both export and the domestic market.

As part of the process to implement the 2018 court ruling to facilitate the personal consumption of cannabis, the document will be used to develop legislation to support the new industry.

The Department of Health, led by the Deputy Director-General Dr Anban Pillay, also made a number of suggestions for future cannabis legislation. Dr Pillay also informed the committee that the department plans to develop a policy on the protection of adolescents and mental healthcare users against the effects of cannabis use.

“The department [of Health] plans to review the Medicines and Related Substances Act to align it with the objectives of the National Cannabis Masterplan and to review the Foodstuffs, Cosmetic and Disinfectants Act to align it with the objectives of the cannabis masterplan and national health objectives,” he said.

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