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E Cape SOPA: Mabuyane says Cannabis Policy Must Protect Indigenous Growers; Sets Up New Advisory Panel

New advisory panel set up to guide provincial cannabis economy

The Eastern Cape Government has appointed an advisory panel to guide the development of a provincial cannabis economy .

Premier Oscar Mabuyane announced this during his  State of the Province Address (SOPA) on 17 February 2022 in Bisho. He echoes President Ramaphosa’s SONA in emphasizing the involvement of the private sector in kickstarting the province’s Covid-battered economy where unemployment stands at 47,1%, the highest in the country. 

Mbuyane said cannabis was one of four main sectors he hoped would lead the recovery, the other three being energy, gas and tourism

 

Discussion document calls for legalization under a new Cannabis Regulation Bill

One of the documents the new advisory panel will be considering is a policy discussion document drawn up by the Eastern Cape Socio-Economic Consultative Council, which says cannabis is the main cash crop in Mpondoland in former Transkei.  Almost all cannabis grown in the Eastern Cape is illegal, with former Finance Minister Tito Mboweni estimating the region could generate over R4 billion in tax income if it was made a taxable product.  

 

This document proposes a new bill, the Cannabis Regulation Bill, that would decriminalize and legalize use of cannabis and all products in the cannabis value chain. It suggests that no attempt should be made to regulate informal or traditional growers, informal traders and the use of cannabis by traditional health practitioners, but regulations should be introduced to protect small and informal operators and investment in the Wild Coast and other districts that are part of the province’s “Dagga Belt”. 

 

Activist attorney Ricky Stone, a director of the uMzimvubu Farmers Support Network, which represents “illegal” growers, welcomed the Premier’s SOPA. He was quoted in Daily Maverick on 18 February 2022, saying that Mabuyane had done remarkable things to get the cannabis economy started and had developed a legal framework to establish this. 

“He has clearly done a lot more than anyone before,” Stone said, but stressed that regulatory change needed to happen first at a national level before the province could realize its cannabis ambitions.

 

Start seeing cannabis as an agricultural crop not a narcotic

He said it was important for the government to start viewing cannabis as an agricultural crop, and cautioned that the current Cannabis for Private Purposes Bill should be scrapped and not “see the light of day”.

“We need a single law and a single authority,” he said, adding that cannabis regulation should not be left to the South African Health Products Regulatory Authority (SAHPRA). “They do not award licences for a single other raw product when it comes to medicine.” 

Stone also said unless South Africa increased the acceptable THC limit from 0,2%gets a law that shifts away from THC limitations of between 0.2% or 0.3%, “hundreds of thousands of tonnes of Mpondoland dagga will have to be destroyed. But if concessions are made, all these plants can be used for medicine and for industrial purposes”.

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