South African President Cyril Ramaphosa has instructed his staff to engage with the cannabis stakeholders to address their concerns about the bottlenecks in the fledgling legal marijuana economy. But, he’s concerned that the industry is too fragmented to speak with one voice and that government is faced with too many competing interests.
Ramaphosa Open to Engaging with Cannabis Industry
NCMP: ‘the wrong guys are in charge’ and the industry is hurting
Calls for the presidency to become involved in cannabis reform are consistent with advice from the United Nations, which is that countries embracing reform should have a strong institution in charge of policy and licensing – either within the presidency or as a constitutionally independent authority. The body should have the authority to co-ordinate the work of different government departments.
“One of the problems with cannabis reform is that they’ve put the wrong guys in charge of the Master Plan” another source told CA. “DALRRD (Department of Agriculture, Land Reform and Rural Development) does not have the capacity or the mandate to develop an economic model for cannabis, and, with respect they’ve put a plant pathologist in charge of reform whereas what we really need is the DTI (Department of Trade and Industry) to get the investment ball rolling”.
“The problem is that we don’t have a willing champion in government who understands the full potential of the plant” said the source, who wanted to remain anonymous for obvious reasons, “and until this happens the debate is going to be stuck at a technical level.”
Calls for government to speed up cannabis reform are becoming increasingly louder from the private sector which has invested well over R100 million in cultivation and processing facilities in South Africa. Many hemp farmers are at financial risk because their permits have expired and have to be renewed by a different department, while Cannabiz Africa understands that almost R2 million of SAHPRA-approved, imported CBD products have been held up at Durban Port for several months because of a lack of procedural clarity.
Nedlac seeks outside expert advice in cannabis discussions
Meanwhile, negotiators at the Trade and Industry Chamber of Nedlac have decided that they need expert input into their deliberations around the National Cannabis Master Plan (NCMP) hand have apparently approached Business Unity South Africa for assistance. Officially Nedlac is declining to comment on the cannabis discussions until a final report is drawn up for the Minister of Trade and Industry.
However, DTI, which has been absent from the legalization debate so far, appears to be finally stirring. Hemporium founder Tony Budden says he’s been in contact with the DTI, which is “bringing some important players to the party to get investment in the sector rolling”.
DALRRD says Justice Dept holds the key to cannabis reform going forward
DALRRD says it has a cannabis framework in place and is waiting on the Minister of Justice to move on the enabling legislation. DALRRD’s Thabo Ramashola, who’s driving the NCMP, says the main technical problem to getting the cannabis economy off the ground is the wording of the Drugs and Drug Trafficking Act of 1995, which prohibits the commercial use of any part of the cannabis plant unless licensed by the South African Health Products Regulatory Authority (SAHPRA) for export.
Cannabiz Africa Legal Desk partners’ Schindlers Attorneys say the Drugs Act is at odds with the constitution, in light of recent court rulings, notably the Gauteng High Court ruling on the relationship between minors and cannabis.
The other government department that is at odds with cannabis reform is Social Development, which views cannabis as a narcotic that breaks down the social fabric and contributes to criminal behaviour.
For the current status of the legalization debate in South Africa, read the Cannabiz Africa legal desk report here.