In a major step forward for cannabis reform, the Gauteng government has unveiled its plans to incorporate cannabis into its post-pandemic economic recovery plans. After announcing that cannabis would be a key part of the “war room” to drive the provinces economy forward beyond Covid-19, the provincial government held a webinar on 23 June 2021 attended by over 400 interested parties to discuss developing the hemp and cannabis markets.
Parks Tau: injecting energy into cannabis reform
However, noticeably absent from the webinar were representatives from the Justice Department or SAPS, a point that was noted by several stakeholders.
Parks Tau: man with a plan
The man who seems to have put of pace in government’s stride is Parks Tau, Gauteng MEC for Economic Development and for Agriculture, Environment and Rural Development, and former mayor of Johannesburg. Tau told Moneyweb on 22 June 2021. https://www.moneyweb.co.za/moneyweb-radio/gauteng-economic-development-mec-renews-focus-on-post-pandemic-recovery/
“Our focus would be on the catalytic programmes as identified in the Growing Gauteng Together 2030 strategy, which would include the expansion of our implementation of the special economic zones. It would include focus sectors such as, among others, cannabis, agro-processing, food and beverage use.”
He told the Gauteng cannabis webinar the next day that there would be five regional special economic zones in the province, each of which would have its own cannabis processing hub”
His director-general Dawn Robertson said the webinar was an eye-opener as to how much energy there was in the nascent cannabis industry: “I was glued to every word that was said” she remarked, adding, wryly:
“We won’t let the grass grow under our feet”.
Hemp regulatory framework ready, just waiting for parliament
During the webinar Cecil Mogase of the Department of Agriculture, Land Reform and Rural Development (DALRDD) said all the necessary adjustments had been made to the Plant Breeders Act to develop a hemp and cannabis seed registry. He said he was hopeful that the necessary changes would be made to the Drugs and Drug Trafficking Act to exclude hemp before October 2020. He said DALRDD would handle the hemp licensing process and expressed his hope that the NCMP’s tabling at Nedlac would speed up the process.
Shamila Cajee of the Cannabis Development Council of South Africa (CDCSA) welcomed the initiative by government and said the organization was willing to help implement the provincial plans in whatever way it could.
“But we must ask why the Department of Justice and the police are not part of this dialogue; they are part of the problem; they make life difficult” she said during the webinar.