Cannabis Trade Association Africa executive director Tebogo Tlhopane says the organization is obviously deeply in favour of the commercialization of cannabis and welcomes the amendments in the Cannabis for Private Purposes Bill that pave the way for this to happen. However, he says he's concerned that there were aspects of the Bill that were a clear constitutional violation of privacy and the Justice Department continued to criminalize the plant.
The CTAA's Tebogo Tlhopane says South Africa has a huge cannabis market of growers and consumers who were seeking to legally trade and consume cannabis, and that legislation should allow for this
During the CTAA’s presentation to the Justice and Correctional Services Portfolio Committee on 23 May 2023, Tlhobane expressed concern that the Cannabis for Private Purposes Bill continued to criminalize individuals for current commercial trade, while at the same time encouraging future commercial trade.
He also raised the point that SAHPRA was tasked with protecting the public from harmful medicines, whereas it had been proven in studies the world over that cannabis is not harmful. He said regulation was founded on unproven premises.
Tlhopane said this had been raised in the CTAA’s previous submission but had not been addressed in the latest amendments.
“Are we being taken seriously at all?
Committee chair Bulelani Maganwashe assured him that previous submissions would be taken into account in the next draft of the Bill.
Tlhopane said the CTAA favoured a commercial model that opened up the plant’s benefits to all South Africans but was not calling for a free-for-all. “The CTAA is not against regulations. We are for fair and reasonable regulations that ensure public safety, not only the economic safety of those with access to large amounts of capital”.
But, he said, there were many problems with the Bill, one of the most fundamental ones being the limitation of the number of plants that can be legally grown per person (four) “This is in contradiction with the Concourt’s ruling on privacy. The fear is that the police will have the power to count plants in a person’s private space. This is an infringement of privacy and puts undue burden on police resources.”
“The CTAA would prefer a single regulatory framework, in other words a single piece of legislation is preferable to fragmented regulation under existing legislation and a series of bills.”
Tlhopane called on the Justice Department to cease all petty cannabis arrests and prosecutions, except in the case of large-scale illicit trafficking. He said amendments should be made to the Drugs and Drug Trafficking Act and the Medicines Act to decriminalize the possession and use of cannabis and pave the way for a future commercial framework. He said follow-through amendments also needed to be made to the Plant Improvement Act and the Traditional Healers Act in order to attain legislative alignment.
He said the CCTA welcomed the clause on future commercialization and looked forward to making input on such legislation. He suggested they read the Webber Wentzel framework document commissioned by the Eastern Cape Rural Development Agency: Final Report of the Conceptualization, Motivation and Key Provision for an Enabling Regulatory Framework for Cannabis.
The CTAA supported the allocation of hemp powers to the Department of Agriculture but said that the distinction between hemp and cannabis should be removed.
“Law enforcement should not be burdened with policing the plant” he said. “Cultivation should not be criminalized because the limits are arbitrary. Limitations create criminals.”
He urged the Justice Department to remove limitations from the Cannabis Bill and to allow for private cannabis clubs.
People behind the news: Who is Tebogo Tlhopane?
Serial entrepreneur Tebogo Tlhopane is the owner and CEO of Biomuti (Pty) Ltd, a healthcare business that specialises in complimentary medicine, including cannabis. He is also the Chairman of the Cannabis Traders Association, an organisation that strives to recognise and regulate cannabis related products for health and wellbeing, paving a way forward for this job creating sector.
Tebogo comes from a family of healers, both his Grandmother and Mother are sangomas* and he grew up in South Africa surrounded by plant medicines. His earlier career took him into the technology space, developing software for communications and payment services. He pioneered the handheld payment device and, for a period of four years (2003-2007), he lived in China. After that he spent over six years in Thailand, where he had a jewellery manufacturing business. He met his wife there and the couple have since settled in Johannesburg, South Africa with their children.
Tebogo says he finds his work with plant medicine to be the most rewarding he has ever done; seeing how it helps and changes people’s lives has kept him inspired to continue promoting products that can deliver these benefits to people.