South African government is making strides in the development of a policy for the hemp and cannabis sector, as stakeholders have collectively agreed on regulatory reforms.
“These reforms will unlock the potential of cannabis in African traditional medicine; pharmaceutical and complementary medicines; human and animal ingestion, and multiple industrial applications,” the Presidency said on Friday.
Given the need for more urgent implementation, under the auspices of the Department of Agriculture, Land Reform and Rural Development (DALRRD) – together with the Presidency – government convened a Phakisa Action Lab from 19 to 23 June 2023.
The Action Lab brought together more than 100 participants representing national and provincial government, business, labour, communities, traditional leaders, Rastafari leaders, scientists, legal experts, and other key stakeholders.
The purpose of the lab was to secure much-needed policy coherence and agreement on a stronger programme of well-defined, time-bound and assigned activities across multiple government departments, working in close collaboration with all stakeholders.
The cannabis and hemp sector is one of 14 priority sectors that have been defined in government’s Country Investment Strategy as holding significant potential to secure investment, job creation and support for sustainable rural livelihoods.
“The regulatory reforms agreed to in the Phakisa Action Lab include reviewing the schedules to the Medicines Act to further enable cannabis grown for non-medicinal uses, including industrial purposes. In other words, the South African Health Products Regulatory Authority (SAHPRA) will focus on cannabis grown for medicinal purposes and enable other government departments to regulate cannabis grown for industrial purposes.
“The lab further resolved to explore mechanisms to fast-track the removal of cannabis from the Drugs Act. This will be a historic achievement through which the cultivation of non-medicinal cannabis will be legal under the terms and conditions of the Plant Improvement Act, which falls under DALRRD,” the Presidency said.
The supply of adult-use cannabis to consumers is not yet legal.
The Presidency said a science-based and human rights approach to how and when to do this, especially concerning the need to include indigenous farmers will be the subject of a further exploratory process involving all stakeholders.
“This will determine an optimal, regulated adult-use market, based on a set of foundational policy principles, taking into full consideration the imperative to respect rights, and lower societal and industry harms occurring in the existing illicit cannabis market. This process will ultimately inform government’s approach to encouraging the successful migration of existing participants from the illicit to the licit cannabis economy.
“In addition, the lab resolved to reinforce previous instructions to all South African Police Services (SAPS) members to respect the privacy rights of cannabis cultivators and users, and to ensure the least intrusive measures are used when securing an accused’s court attendance. Further measures will be taken to ensure that SAPS treats cultivators, users and dealers of cannabis with respect for their constitutional rights,” the Presidency said.
Agreement was also reached in the lab for a detailed set of measures, supported by the regulatory reform process, to better enable investment in the sector.
This is important, as previously constrained investment in the primary agricultural sector has not taken sufficient account of final product market development and demand.
The detailed programme of action will, therefore, include:
- Scaling up support for the existing catalytic projects put in place by the Department of Science and Innovation (DSI) and the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR) to support and enable private sector investment in product aggregation, processing, and manufacturing technology for end-user demand.
- Securing an optimal financing framework, which enables private sector investment with some public sector financing support, targeted at black farmers and SME entrants in the emerging market and where appropriate, assisting to de-risk private sector investment.
- Deploying a set of pragmatic interventions concerning investment promotion, export support and standards, and conformity assessment.
- Working with all provinces to further the activities currently underway and ensure alignment across government.
“The Phakisa Action Lab has produced a solid and constitutional foundation for more urgent implementation of the Cannabis Master Plan. Most importantly, a programme of detailed, assigned and time-bound activities has been agreed on, with a stronger implementation of institutional arrangements across national and provincial government departments, in collaboration with business, labour, communities, traditional leaders, Rastafari leaders, scientists and legal experts,” the Presidency said. – SAnews.gov.za