Labour federation Cosatu says it is concerned that government departments are not working together to develop a sustainable cannabis industry. In a submission to the the Justice and Correctional Services Portfolio Committee on 31 August 2021, Cosatu spokesman Tony Ehrenreich said cannabis should be decriminalized in order to boost the economy and remove the industry from the control of criminal syndicates.
Government sending out mixed messages
But he said government departments were sending out mixed messages on cannabis reform and should come to a single position on how it viewed the industry. He said the Cannabis for Private Purposes Bill and the National Cannabis Master Plan were at odds with each other.
“If the government wants to nurture the industry’s growth and to ensure that its products are used for the benefit of society, then it needs to speak with one voice and not send a myriad of mixed messages,” he said.
“The bill speaks to decriminalising personal use of small amounts. The Department of Health is processing approval for its medicinal uses. The Departments of Trade, Industry & Competition as well as Agriculture, Rural Development and Land Reform are working on developing a master plan to support its industrial uses. The master plan cannot work if the bill will continue to criminalise possession and development beyond minor personal uses,” he said.
Cannabis can help the economy but beware cheap imports
He told MP’s that the size of the commercial cannabis industry was potentially about R30 billion and could create as many as 25,000 jobs.
“The cannabis industry itself has many potential opportunities for the economy. These include its positive contributions for medicinal, clothing, and industrial uses,”
Ehrenreich noted that cannabis was an emerging industry internationally, and if South Africa did not move to manage it, the local market would be displaced by cheap imports. He urged the government to quickly ensure that the large-scale commercial production of cannabis was permitted.
Ehrenreich said decriminalising the cannabis sector could also take the industry from the control of criminal syndicates.
“It should help collapse the monopoly and exorbitant prices imposed on addicts that fuel gangs,” he said.