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SAHPRA’s Credibility in Question: CTAA Asks Are You Being Deliberately Misleading or Naïve?

The South African Health Products Regulatory Authority (SAHPRA) has been accused of either deliberately misleading the public on two major issues – or it is naïve to the extent to which its competence could be questioned. 


SAHPRA lashed over food definitions and CBD levels

The stinging attack on the body responsible for licensing cannabis operations in South Africa by Tebogo Tlhopane, chairman of the Cannabis Trade Association of Africa (CTAA), is unprecedented.  The fact that it was endorsed by many subsequent speakers at the Justice and Correctional Services Portfolio Committee Meeting on the Cannabis for Private Purposes Bill, is indicative of the depth of frustration building up in the cannabis industry towards SAHPRA. 


Tlhopane said SAHPRA had to be called to account on:

  • The legislated levels of CBD allowed in products, which Tlhopane said were completely arbitrary and were too low to allow for efficacy; and
  • Its claim that cannabis had no nutritional value and therefore could not be considered a foodstuff;


“The use of cannabis as food goes back 10 000 years and yet SAHPRA and the Ministry of Health say it has no nutritional value and they’re in charge of setting the regulations to control its use!”


“One piece of legislation should cover cannabis’

Tlhopane said the CTAA was not against regulation per se. “We are for free and reasonable regulations that ensure public safety, not only the economic safety of those who have access to large sums of capital” he said. The CTAA favoured a single regulated framework with one piece of legislation governing cannabis.

“All full spectrum extracts sold without medicinal claims should be sold as food and placed under food regulation” he said. “Any cannabis product with medicinal claims should go to SAHPRA”.

He said the Agriculture Department (DALRRD) should be in charge of hemp licensing and that it should be as simple as “getting a license to grow an apple”.


He said cannabis should be graded like fruit, for instance:

  • AA (Medical Grade, needs SAHPRA license)
  • A (Indoor grown, no medical claim, needs DALRDD license)
  • B (Greenhouse quality, no medical claims, DALRDD license)
  • C (Outdoor, no medical claims, DALRDD license)


SA conditions don’t favour current hemp definitions

Thlopane said he was concerned that the South African hemp industry would not be able to get off the ground because local growing conditions led to spikes in THC levels beyond the internationally accepted standards and that hemp should be classified as such locally with THC levels of up to three percent. 

He said the current THC limits in hemp of 0,1% were laughable. “At those levels we’ll never get a hemp industry off the ground here. It’s never going to happen; if you want that little THC don’t plant in Africa, plant in Siberia. Our ultra-violet rays are too high for our farmers to operate within the current legal framework”.


He said following limits were more acceptable to the industry:

  • Full spectrum CBD products – up to 3 % THC instead of the current zero;
  • CBD levels – up to 500 mg instead of the current 20 mg;


‘Regulate cannabis like alcohol’

He called on the government to remove hemp from both the Drugs and Medicines Acts and for authorities to allow the safe use and exchange of money for cannabis in private, adult-only spaces.

“Regulate it like alcohol” he said, suggesting a new healthcare agency should oversee cannabis instead of the current government departments.

He also called for the urgent protection of local cannabis genetics. “The seed issue is a joke” he said. “There is no legislation covering seeds; we have to import seeds; we’ve lost so much of our genetics already – allow these seeds to be recognized and registered”.

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