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Gauteng Govt: Lots of Cannabis talk but where’s the action?

Gauteng seeks to be the industrial cannabis hub of South Africa. Provincial Premier David Makhuru grabbed the headlines with his State of the Province Address (SOPA) on 22 February 2021, saying cannabis should be a major contributor to the economy.

 

Gauteng premier Makhuru: focus on processing rather than agriculture

 

Makhuru’s words are in line with South Africa’s overall cannabis development strategy, but they are basically a repeat of what he said in his 2020 SOPA. His province is lagging way behind other provinces with no coherent policy or investment criteria.   It has a particularly long way to go if it is to catch up to South Africa’s current cannabis hub, the Western Cape.  

 

Gauteng Lagging in the Cannabis Development Stakes

The province’s investment arm Wesgro has facilitated at least R150 m in cannabis-related investment across the supply chain generating hundreds of jobs. It sees cannabis as an integrated part of its agriculture and healthcare strategy.  Its cannabis policy is easily downloaded from its website (https://www.wesgro.co.za/invest/resources/investing-in-cannabis-in-south-africa). The Gauteng Growth and Development Agency has no mention of cannabis on its web-site (http://ggda.co.za/) let alone any documentation of any use to prospective investors. It has played no role in the handful of licenses awarded to Gauteng processors.

Gauteng is the fourth South African province to officially embrace cannabis as part of an overall economic plan.  Besides the Western Cape, the other two are KwaZulu Natal and the Eastern Cape. Limpopo and Mpumulanga have signalled their intentions to develop their own cannabis economies, but no formal proposals are on the table.

Part of Gauteng’s problem in aspiring to be the cannabis kings of South Africa is its focus on processing at the expense of agriculture. During his 2021 SOPA, Makhuru said existing provincial infrastructure should be used to develop marijuana manufacturing capacity. 

 

Gauteng hints at Eastern Cape partnership

“The processing of cannabis will be particularly for health purposes and for other parts of improving the life of humanity. Not so much to grow it, but to process it. It may be grown in the Eastern Cape. The province says it wants to be the heartland of growing cannabis. We want to process it as the industrial heartland of our province,” he said.

Makhuru’s statements have been greeted with some surprise by Eastern Cape cannabis insiders.   “Gauteng is crazy if they think we’re going to be sending them any of our cannabis to process. The premier’s thinking is muddled. The Eastern Cape’s strategy is to incorporate subsistence farmers into a cultivation economy with agro-processing zones in East London and Port Elizabeth as part of a broader export model.  Why would Transkei send cannabis to Gauteng unless it was for the recreational market, which is currently illegal.”

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