Afrostar’s Nicholas Heinemann is a consultant helping the DTIC with its cannabis strategy. He says there is no international convention that specifies THC levels in hemp or industrial cannabis and that those countries that have chosen to do so have shaped such policies out of a prohibitionist mindset.
Heinemann added his voice to the commentary on the hemp provisions of the Cannabis for Private Purposes Bill in Parliament on 23 May 2023. He said in his view the new hemp provisions in the Bill were “overly-restrictive, counter-revolutionary, anti-development, anti-black, not pro-poor with no sound reasoning following this approach”.
He told the Justice and Correctional Services Portfolio Committee members that China, India, Nepal had all classified their landraces as industrial cannabis and were successful hemp producers. He said the adoption by European and American countries of THC% limits in hemp, was born out of a prohibitionist mindset and not determined by international conventions.
He said South Africa should classify its indigenous landraces as industrial cannabis as this would exempt the country from its international reporting obligations which would then be limited to seizures of illegal cannabis and medical cannabis compliance measures.
Heinemann pointed out that The UN Convention on Drugs said very clearly that whether a cannabis plant had 0,2% THC or 20%, it could be classified as industrial cannabis if used for industrial purposes. “Therefore, if you say its for industrial purposes and part of the plant is used for industrial purposes, then it is industrial cannabis”.
He said by defining landraces as industrial cannabis, South Africa could come up with its own regulations, which is what the Department of Trade, Industry and Competition (DTIC) was working on.
“The Committee has to understand what we have and what we can unlock, and we are not going to unlock that by placing western THC limits on ourselves, it’s not going to work, it’s never going to work, because it excludes our traditional farmers” he said.
“If you are going to regulate for industrial purposes, you don’t regulate the plant in the ground”.
He said there should be no THC limits in South African industrial hemp and that regulations should be enforced at the point of processing and not at cultivation.
Redefining “hemp” as "industrial cannabis" would enable South Africa to competitively position itself by making use of its well-endowed resources.
“We have more cannabis growing in South Africa than all the legal hemp grown in Europe. Our competitive advantage is scale of production, drought tolerant species, the experience of our small-scale farmers and naturalized genetics”.
Heinemann said it was essential that small scale farmers be incorporated in a legal cannabis framework and that this could be achieved by defining all South African landraces as industrial cannabis.