Cannabis takes centre stage at President Ramaphosa’s SONA
President Cyril Ramaphosa has identified the cannabis sector as a key part of South Africa’s post-Covid economy and has undertaken to overhaul the regulatory framework to make it happen. He made the announcement during his State of the Nation Address (SONA) in Cape Town on 10 February 2022.
“We will review the regulatory framework in a whole lot of sectors” said the President, drawing a breath, “and more importantly, what will come as sweet news for our people, especially in the Eastern Cape and KwaZulu Natal, for industrial hemp and cannabis to realize huge potential for investment and job creation”
His historic words bought cheers from MP’s of all parties, sitting in the Cape Town City Hall for SONA, instead of Parliament – because of the recent arson attack on the House of Assembly.
“Now this natural product, which our people have been farming and harvesting for a number of purposes, is going to be industrialized, and no longer just being resorted to as the smoke process” he said, mimicking smoking a joint, to the obvious delight of the Gallery.
“Many countries around the world have already advanced to higher levels” he said with a deadpan expression. “Our immediate neighbour, Lesotho has moved ahead in the industrialization of cannabis in leaps and bounds, and the products that are to be eked out of hemp and cannabis are in great demand around the world. We want to harness this so that we can release and unleash the energy or ordinary farmers in the various parts of our country, especially in the Eastern Cape and KwaZulu Natal, especially in the Mpondoland area”. Again, the Gallery cheered.
“The hemp and cannabis sector has the potential to create more than 130 000 new jobs. We are therefore streamlining the regulatory processes so that the hemp and cannabis sector can thrive like it is in other countries such as Lesotho,” said the President.
Private sector at the core of job creation
Ramaphosa said that there were important structural reforms underway that would put the private sector at the core of job creation “and we are at idim as to how deep and how far we should go”. He said that cannabis fitted into a broader context where there would be far-reaching changes to small, micro and informal businesses.
“These are the businesses that create the most jobs and provide the most opportunities for poor people to earn a living”.
He said government wanted to enable this sector and remove “strictures” by adapting the labour market to “enable them to hire more people, while at the same time protecting the rights of workers”.
Government Moving Ahead with Land Reform
“Expanding access to our land is vital to our efforts to reduce hunger and provide people with meaningful livelihoods” said Ramaphosa.
“We are moving ahead with land reform in terms of our Constitution and anticipate the approval of the Expropriation Bill this year. The establishment of the Land and Agriculture Develoment Agency will be finalized this year”.
“We have enough arable land to support millions of small-scale farmers in poultry, livestock, fruit and vegetables.” He said over 100 000 small-scale farmers had already received input vouchers to expand their production.
“This scheme as proved to be effective and impactful and it has established a very good delivery mechanism that has ensured that we reach so many of the small-scale farmers. The agriculture sector has also recognized the importance of supporting these small-scale farmers and integration into their value chains.”
The President Calls for a “New Consensus”
He asked all South Africans “to rally together whether they agreed on certain issues or not” and forge a “new consensus”. This would enable South Africans to confront a “new reality”, “a consensus that hides behind our shared determination to reform our economy, rebuild our institution. If ever there was a time to work together, this is the time for us to work together”.