Mr President, Advice for Free: 4 Simple Steps to Fulfill Your Cannabis Pledges
Adding a paragraph dedicated to the cannabis and hemp sector to the annual state of the nation address each year is one thing. But seeing action being taken and plans implemented is another. Gibbs Senior Lecturer Motshedisi Mathibe is offering President Cyril Ramaphosa free advice on how to kickstart the cannabis industry with four simple conceptual steps.
12 April 2023 at 11:00:00
In an article published in Moneyweb on 28 March 2023, Gibbs Senior Lecturer Motshedisi Mathibe suggested four practical steps the presidency could take in order to put some rock’n roll into the cannabis sector. Based on her experience as a member of the Cannabis Organisation University of Pretoria and a member of one of the working groups set up to give inputs for a government masterplan first drawn up in 2021, she makes four recommendations to fast-track the process.
1. Reviewing and revising the existing masterplan,
2. Getting defunct working groups up and running again,
3. Putting a plan in place before seeking investment;
4. Setting up a monitoring and evaluation capability.
Reviewing and revising the existing masterplan
The National Cannabis Master Plan (NCMP) is currently under the custodianship of the Department of Agriculture, Land Affairs and Rural Development but it has neither the power nor the imagination to implement it. The glaring gap in the NCMP is how to establish a domestic adult-use regulatory framework that balances the commercial benefits of cannabis against the potential social harms. The main stumbling block is the security cluster within Government who have ensured that cannabis remains included as a scheduled substance in the latest incarnation of the Drugs and Drug Trafficking Act. As long as this statute remains in place the NCMP will only be open for window-shopping.
Getting defunct working groups up and running again
In November 2021, Business Unity South Africa’s cannabis facilitator, M Ayanda Bam, succeeded in putting together the NCMP Private Sector Working Group (PSWG) to help Government steer its way through the many issues that the NCMP had to resolve. Cannabiz Africa assisted Bam by playing the role of secretariat for the PSWG which established a number of workstreams to assist Government in fast-tracking an overall regulatory framework for the cannabis industry. The PSWG’s main success was to put together the wording of an overarching cannabis law that could be put to Parliament tomorrow. Known as the Webber Wentzel document, the proposal sought to regulate commercial trade through a multi-layered licensing regime (whereby legacy growers would not have to be licensed), clarify THC levels and offset social harms. By May 2022 the PSWG fell apart in the face of Government apathy and a lack of funding.
Mathibe writes “these working groups and workstreams consisted of representatives from government, the private sector, academic institutions and the cannabis research community. The groups got off to a good start and were in a process of reviewing and revising a plan to commercialise hemp and cannabis.
One of the key objectives was to ensure that township entrepreneurs and rural farmers would benefit from any changes.
But working groups collapsed and disappeared without trace.
The president’s comments therefore invite the question: what happened to the masterplan working groups, and the workstreams? When the president speaks about acceleration to commercialise the cannabis sector, which includes the participation of rural farmers, how far along is the planning?”
The presidency must reinstate the cannabis master plan working groups and workstreams. They must be allowed to finalise the review and revision of the current master plan.
Putting a plan in place before seeking investment;
Mathibe argues that “investments in the hemp and cannabis sector should only be implemented once the masterplan has been reviewed and revised. This will provide guidance on how the proposed funds can be properly channelled”.
“The President mentioned that, in accelerating commercialisation of the sector, urgent work is being finalised by government to create an enabling regulatory framework for hemp and cannabis plants. This includes their use for complementary medicines, food, cosmetics as well as some industrial products.
Bam has made the suggestion that if Government legislated that there needed to be a certain component of hemp, say in building codes or army uniforms, that would kick in in a decade, that would give the fledgling hemp industry an outcome to aim for.
Mathibe said “the revised master plan should enable the inclusion of township entrepreneurs and rural farmers. They are currently excluded from the mainstream commercialisation of hemp and cannabis due to a cumbersome licensing process.
“The wheel should not be reinvented. Neither should time and effort be wasted”.
Setting up a monitoring and evaluation capability.
Mathibe argues that a monitoring and evaluation committee needs to be set up to look after the hemp and cannabis project implementation.
“It should be set up in the same way the working groups were formed with representatives from all interested players. This will ensure that all players in the sector are included. And that funds are appropriately spent.”
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Cannabis in South Africa: The People’s Plant
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