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South Africa: the legalization of an already thriving industry



Cannabis (dagga) plantation in South Africa. Image: Strain Hunters South Africa Expedition - Episode 2

In the weeks leading up to the General Assembly elections in South Africa, last Wednesday, May 29, there was a strong expectation that the president, Cyril Ramaphosa (ANC), would sign into law the new cannabis legalization law, known locally as dagga. Only the insomniacséDuring the toughest elections in post-apartheid history in South Africa, they were surprised by the news that arrived on Tuesday night (28 May): just before midnight, the presidency released a statement stating that Cyril Ramaphosa had signed the Cannabis for Private Purposes Act (CfPPA), which legalizes the possession, use and cultivation of cannabis, and also completely removes the plant from the Drugs and Drug Trafficking Act (Drugs and Drug Trafficking Act).

The May 4th World March, which mobilized protesters mainly in the cities of Johannesburg, Durban and Cape Town, reinforced enthusiasm. But in the week of the elections, optimism gave way to a feeling of defeat that was almost certain. Speculation suggested that the lack of agreement among some groups with crucial points in the text had prevented the presidential signature. But the fears would not be confirmed.

On the morning of the 29th, the day of the vote, the feeling was still one of surprise and a certain stupor fueled by the silence of the local and international media. Everyone was waiting for the publication of the text of the law, which came late in the morning, and the statements from influential figures in the industry. Myrtle Clark, founder of the NGO Fields of Green for All and one of the most prominent voices in the fight for legalization, was the first to officially speak out, after reading more than 20 pages of the new cannabis legislation, better known as dagga in South Africa.

Before meeting with journalists, Myrtle shared a 20-minute video in which, visibly moved, she stated: “It's true, the president signed it last night, and the feeling é from a lot theresaw. Nwill é a complete legalization, but as of now we are the first African nation to legalize cannabis, establish a legal framework for its regulation and remove cannabis from the list of illicit substances ».

The 'Dagga couple' Myrtle Clarke and Jules Stobbs. Photo: Nicky Newman

A non-commercial legalization as a first step

Myrtle's activism, part of the famous Dagga Couple, asIt started when she and her husband were arrested in 2010 for growing cannabis inside the couple's home. InsteadéAfter paying bail, Myrtle Clark and Julian Stobbs decided to defy justice and fight to change drug laws in South Africa with a very specific demand: individual freedom and the right to privacy.

The legalization process in South Africa began in 2017, when the Supreme Court considered it unconstitutional to prohibit adults from consuming and cultivating cannabis in their private spaces, interrupting prosecutions related to these cases. This decision was confirmed in 2018, when the Constitutional Court signed the Cannabis for Private Purpose Bill which decriminalized the possession, use and cultivation of the plant for adults within private spaces. Parliament was then tasked with establishing regulationsis specific and the executive had 24 months to implement these changes, which culminated in the signing of this new legislationo.

The CfPPA regulates the cultivation, possession and use of cannabis by adults in private spaces. The limits will still be defined by the reform amendments. All sales and consumption in public spaces and near children remain prohibited.

The new law maintained the article that allows the sharing of cannabis and alsoém of seeds and seedlings among adults, but without any remuneration in the form of money, gifts, favors, etc. Called by the presidency for a non-commercial legalization, it was announced as a first step in a process that will result in the complete legalizationo.

Includedion in traffic law and severe penalties

Another important update é includedof cannabis in the Traffic Law, allowing the application of penalties for people who drive under the influence of the substance.nce.

Penalties for those who do not comply with the law can range from fines toé prison sentencesO. infraMinor actions, such as exceeding possession and cultivation limits or storage failures, will result in fines. The most serious offenses provided for in the new legislation concern commercialization and the protection of children. Involving children in the possession, cultivation or use of the substance can result in prison sentences of up toé 10 years old.

Regulation of medicinal use and impact on traditional practices

AléFurthermore, the CfPPA placed the regulation of medicinal use under Section 22 of the Medicines Act (Medicines Act), which establishes the conditions and requirements for the medicinal use of medicines, including the need for a medical prescriptionétip, regulation for transportation and storage, and the administrationor controlled.

Some Sangomas (or healers) at The Cannabis Expo, in 2023. Photo: Larissa Barbosa | Cannareporter

This point of the new legislation was not well received by traditional healers (or healers), known as 'sangomas'. A peculiarity in South Africa é that the medicinal use of cannabis is still strongly related to traditional medicine. The new lawmakes no mention of these practices and sangomas feel that their needs and perspectives were not adequately considered in the drafting process.that of the legislationhereo.

According to Snoux Poswa, director of several cooperatives and rural organizations, such as Mcandoland Cannabis Belt Association, the new legislation brings mixed feelings. "On the one hand é an advance for the industry and we are very happy with the regulation, but this new law does not concern us, indigenous people, who traditionally use the plant, nor the traditional healers. She é a regulation made only for personal use, it benefits the user. NWe will still have to be aware of the possibilities of persecution in our communities.” Poswa recalled that in rural communities in Mcandoland (Eastern Cape), for example, cannabis fields are open and the plant é very normalized among families. There, children are always around and é impossiblelevel did not exposethem the plant.

Myrtle Clarke recalled that the challenge really é big for many groups, but most importantly now é closely monitor the stages of regulation and participate in the process of amending legislation reform. According to Clarke, “the most important é which is now in the law, and from now on everything é canlevel, everything can be adjusted and regulated.”

Harvesting Hope with Industrial Hemp

The sector that will really benefit from the new legislation é probably the industrial cultivation of hemp, which é seen as an opportunity to diversify the agricultural economyglue South Africa, promote sustainable economic growth, generate jobs and alleviate rural poverty.

Lawyer Shaad Vayej highlighted the importance of the CfPPA in this context: “Although it does not specifically address commercialization, the new law removes the possibility of criminal prosecution under the Drugs Act for investors and entrepreneurs in the hemp industry.” He added: “While there is still a long way to go to achieve a fully regulated and inclusive cannabis industry, this éWithout a doubt, an important step in the right direction. The CfPPA provides a clear legal basis for the personal use and cultivation of cannabis, which é essential for building a regulated market in the future”.

Another factor that will help boost industrial hemp é the fact that the law considers cannabis only the flowering top of the plant, the part that contains the most THC, everything else is not é considered cannabis and can be processed and sold. According to Linda Siboto, co-founder of Cheeba Cannabis Academy, a cannabis school based in Johannesburg, this new law opens up countless possibilities: “now we can think about creating infrastructure, producing hemp bioplastics, food, textile products, and that é very encouraging for the economy.” In a tone of optimism and a certain humor, Siboto stated that the onlyonly problem isThere is the difficulty of producing hemp with a 2% THC limit under the African sun, but “this é easy to negotiate with whoever is going to make the regulations, we will have to get at least 5%”, he stated.

Linda Siboto, co-founder of Cheeba Cannabis Academy, says she wants to increase hemp's maximum THC level to 5% (currently the limit is 2%)

Siboto also recalled that this development of industrial hemp é particularly important in the context of regional trends, where countries in southern AfricaAfrica such as Lesotho, Malawi and Zimbábue tpolicies have been adopted to encourage the production of hemp and cannabis for export. Lesotho, for example, was the first African country to allow the cultivation of cannabis for medicinal purposes in 2017, standing out in the global medical cannabis market. Companies in Lesotho invested millionsit's from ddollars in cultivation and export facilities, attracting foreign investors and creating local jobs. In Malawi, the government alsoém is promoting industrial hemp production as a strategicégy to diversify the agricultural economy and increase exports. In Zimbahbue, the lawtion of 2018 allowed the cultivation of cannabis for medical purposesédic and scientific, creating new opportunities for farmers and investors in the country.

No green light for those operating in the gray zone

The horizon of the future may be promising, but the present already dazzles a reality comparable to legalized states, such as California. Alit's from jThere is a well-developed CBD product industry, South Africa has several legal cultivation farms, most of them for export. But é The recreational market is one of the most prosperous, operating largely in the so-called gray area of ​​the law. Since 2018, when cultivation, use and possession were decriminalized, numerous social cannabis clubs have emerged. Although the club system is still heavily criticized, this model has prospered in South Africa. It is estimated that today more than 300 clubs are spread across the country, placing neon signs in the urban landscape. Currently, cannabis is relatively normalized in the South African context, being considered the new tobacco.

As in Spain and Germany, cannabis clubs in South Africa operate under a membership system and are based on the article of law that allows the exchange of cannabis between growers and adult users. The premise é that payment in these clubs é done by the cultivation and administration service, and not by the plant itself. In South African clubs é canYou can find different types of products, including THC drinks, edibles and sophisticated extraction derivatives, all produced locally. These products have no license, registration or quality control.

Unlike Germany, which regulated the existence of clubs, the new South African law made no mention of these establishments, which already exist on a large scale in the country. According to lawyer Shaad Vayej, the perspective é that clubs will continue to benefit from this article, but everything will depend on the judges' interpretation of the law. The truth é that the commercialization of cannabis is still é prohibited and clubs must be very aware of this.

Legalization has not yetor isis complete and clubs may not be the regulatory model to be followed in the world, but the signing of the CfPPA é a historic milestone, as with it South Africa is paving the way for a more modern and scientific approach to cannabis and puts South Africa on the map of the global legalization trend.o.



[Disclaimer: Please note that this text was originally written in Portuguese and is translated into English and other languages ​​using an automatic translator. Some words may differ from the original and typos or errors may occur in other languages.]


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With a BA in Journalism and an MA in Gender and Development Studies at the Institute of International Studies and Development in Geneva, Switzerland, Larissa Barbosa is a Brazilian journalist based in France. In her career, she has written mainly on human rights, development and social movements. A few years ago, she began to study and write about the cannabis industry and became deeply interested in the topic of psychedelics as well. Larissa believes that good communication and journalism are central to a better understanding of the science of cannabis and psychedelics, in order to change public opinion and reduce stigma.

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