Experts Agree: Drugs Act and THC Limits for Hemp are the 2 Biggest Barriers to Developing a Healthy Cannabis Economy
It’s easy: change the Drugs Act
Brett Hilton Barber
5 May 2022, 22:00:00
It’s easy: change the Drugs Act
The easiest thing for Government to do to get the cannabis economy going is to amend the Drugs and Drug Trafficking Act to exclude cannabis as a narcotic. This point was made by the lead of the private sector working group on cannabis policy, M Ayanda Bam, during a panel discussion on the hemp industry hosted by Cheeba Craft TV on 3 May 2022. Bam is also co-founder of Friends of Hemp SA.
He said the Drugs Act and the Government’s current definition of hemp as cannabis with less than 0,2% were “major problems” for the industry and threatened to undermine the fledgling hemp sector before it had got off the ground. He said the industry unanimously agreed that for South African conditions – where THC spikes naturally – a far more realistic limit would be 1%.
Bam said the continued definition of cannabis as a narcotic prevented the likes of Absa from investing in the cannabis industry.
“There is a lot of capital waiting to be deployed in South Africa, but unless there’s regulatory certainty, it will stay away”.
Government can stimulate demand for cannabis products
Bam said the way to develop the hemp industry would be to “work from the demand side”.
Government could stimulate this, for instance, by stipulating that hempcrete be included in building codes. Rebars, he said were now being made from hemp, and this had huge implications for the construction industry and local job creation.
“We are hampered by regulations that forbid us from using the whole plant which has multiplier benefits.”.
Hemp expert Dr Moses Mlangeni said that over 40% of consumption in South Africa is by government.
“Instead of putting pressure on the private sector to get things going, Government could create demand, for instance by specifying that hemp should be used in textiles, or paper, or building material purchased by the State”.
Dr Mlangeni questioned why permits to grow hemp were necessary in the first place.
“It feels like Government is trying to keep people out instead of encouraging them in when it comes to the cannabis economy. “They should be encouraging anyone who wants to grow hemp to do so and not be burdened with the paperwork”.
THC% limit an “unnecessary barrier”, Plant Act “a scary piece of paper”
Hemp veteran and master grower Natie Ferreira said the 0,2% THC limit was “of major concern because it limits our genetic pool”. He said the genetics of imported seeds changed when they were planted in South African soil and that influencing the genetic pool would have consequences down the line.
“Anyone who understands our microclimates would know that 0,2% is an “unnecessary barrier” said Ferreira who added that there was a “the lack of awareness” on hemp issues in the Department of Justice and that the whole permit application process was more cumbersome than it used to be, because now police clearance was involved.
“They are bottlenecking the hemp permit application system” said Ferreira, who is personally feeling the frustration of excessive bureaucracy. He is still waiting for police to approve his hemp permit application which he submitted in December 2021.
Ferreira said the Plant Improvement Act also needed to be amended as it was a “criminalizing Act” in terms of which one could be jailed for growing an unlicensed product. “It’s a scary piece of paper” he said.
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