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CANNABIS INDUSTRY 

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EFF Calls for South African Cannabis Industry to be Nationalized

EFF Calls for South African Cannabis Industry to be Nationalized

EFF MP Suzan Thembekwayo: "The EFF notes that it will be important at some stage for the country to nationalise all natural resources, including marijuana. This will be important to make sure that the substance (of reform) is actually turned into an economic activity."

Suzan Thembekwayo, EFF MP

17 June 2024 at 07:00:00

This opinion piece was first published in City Press on 16 June 2024.


From the beginning of our tenure in the National Assembly, the EFF has been advocating not only for the decriminalisation, but also the creation of an industry for cannabis. In 2014, during our inaugural year in Parliament, the EFF boldly proposed the decriminalisation of cannabis - a move that was initially met with derision and laughter. Yet, our vision prevailed and the proposal was adopted.


This was our stance: "The EFF notes that it will be important at some stage for the country to nationalise all natural resources, including marijuana. This will be important to make sure that the substance is actually turned into an economic activity."


Our foresight and commitment to transforming cannabis into a vital economic resource remains the same.


READ: Ramaphosa signs Cannabis Act into law just hours before SA goes to polls


On 24 May 2024, President Cyril Ramaphosa signed the Cannabis for Private Purposes Act, making South Africa the first African nation to legalise the use of marijuana. This move, supported by the National Assembly, removed cannabis from the country’s list of outlawed narcotics, allowing adults to grow and consume the plant privately, provided children are not present.


In addition, the Act advocates for the expungement of criminal records for those previously convicted of possessing cannabis. This is a necessary step towards justice for those who have been unfairly penalised under outdated and discriminatory laws.


The banning of the use of cannabis has deep roots in colonisation and anti-blackness, serving as a tool of oppression rather than a means of public health. With the signing of the Cannabis for Private Purposes Act, we see a progressive step towards rectifying historical injustices and embracing the potential of this valuable plant.


This legislation is long overdue considering that a 2018 court ruling deemed private consumption of cannabis constitutional and mandated government to prepare legalisation within two years.


According to the UN Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC), about 25% of global cannabis production occurs in Africa, with South Africa ranked as the world's third-largest producer. As a result, studies have shown that prohibition costs the state more, particularly with law enforcement spending a lot of money on seizures and monitoring criminalisation.


Additionally, it prevents the taxation of marijuana production and sale whereas legalising marijuana would allow governments to levy taxes on its production and sale, thereby boosting tax revenue.


READ:  Presidential cannabis advisor: cannabis to eventually be classified as an agricultural product


While the EFF agrees with the intention of the Act, we have some reservations. Firstly, certain provisions of the Act, particularly in relation to the decriminalisation of the use and possession of cannabis while criminalising its sale, counters the purpose of the legislation. Not everyone has the means to cultivate cannabis for personal use, making it essential for users to purchase it from a reliable source.


Secondly, there are entire rural communities, particularly in areas in and around eMaMpondweni in the Eastern Cape and in KwaZulu-Natal, totalling more than 900 000 small scale farmers who are exclusively dependent on the production and sale of cannabis. They have been engaged in this economic activity for generations and know no other means of livelihood.


However, the decriminalisation of cannabis in 2018 has already had detrimental effects as these farmers have found themselves without a market for a crop that was previously very lucrative, as anyone can now grow and consume their own cannabis. This sudden market shift has left these farmers economically stranded.


Additionally, the potential for these farmers to grow cannabis for export as medicine is hindered by the prohibitive costs associated with entering the medical cannabis industry.


Acquiring a license from the SA Health Products Regulatory Authority (SAHPRA) costs approximately R30 000 and setting up a medicinal cannabis facility requires an investment of millions of rands. These financial barriers are beyond the reach of many traditional growers, further exacerbating their economic plight.

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