Calamity follows the South African Health Products Regulatory Authority (SAHPRA) like a loyal dog in a strange town. The organization at the centre of cannabis regulation in South Africa appears to be buckling under the pressure from its primary task: trying to regulate the anti-Covid vaccine regime and save lives.
But SAHPRA has become the loose cannon in South Africa’s ambitious cannabis reform programme and it needs to be saved from itself. Like pronto! In the past month SAHPRA has dismayed cannabis stakeholders with a series of bewildering self-imposed crises.
- It misled Parliament by declaring that cannabis had no nutritional value and therefore could not be classified as a foodstuff
- It sought to persuade MP’s to come up with an absurd definition of cannabis as a plant that excluded stalks and leaves and roots;
- It’s hung out Deputy Director General of Health Dr Anban Pillay to dry in the in the cold winds of politics by putting him in direct opposition with the Department of Agriculture which sees the nutritional value of cannabis as a core part of the National Cannabis Master Plan;
- It’s facing legal action from a number of cannabis players; Cannabiz Africa knows of one cannabis edible importer who had to destroy thousands of rands of stock because of SAHPRA ineptitude;
- SAHPRA has been accused of being a toy of White Monopoly Capital by the Marijuana Board of South Africa (MBSA) and the Black Farmers Association of South Africa (BFASA) who both accuse SAHPRA of implementing racist and anti-poor guidelines in its licensing regime: 31 licenses issued in an environment in which an estimated 1 million or so full-time, illegal cannabis farmers are growing to put food on the table;
- And now its apparently given the go-ahead to allowing Canadian medicinal dry bud into one of two licensed “proto-dispensery” operations: Cannabis Clinics which is in direct opposition to Prof Benny de Beer’s CBD Full Spectrum, which is aiming to be a wholly South African cannabis link between patient and doctor;
And perhaps more seriously than any of the above SAHPRA has imposed arbitrary CBD limits in medicines and has allowed a legal grey area to emerge in the sale and distribution of CBD products. The Cannabis Trade Association of South Africa (CTAA) has accused SAHPRA of putting a noose around the neck of the fledgling legal cannabis industry and it’s chairman Tebogo Tlopane has questioned whether there is something more sinister at play.
The net effect is that SAHPRA is stifling government’s own attempts to kick-start a post-Covid cannabis economy. One legal opinion is that every CBD product being retailed in South Africa is illegal because SAHPRA has failed to follow up on gazetting legal regulations.