Decriminalising dagga in SA is not necessarily where the money is, says agriculture body

Business Insider SA
Cannabis dagga

  • The Agricultural Business Chamber, which represents big farming companies and their funders, wants "concerted effort into research" on dagga in South Africa.
  • But it is not worried about decriminalising recreational cannabis use in SA, because that may not be where the money is.
  • Instead the body is eyeing the export potential of China and some US states, and wants policymakers to be thinking seriously about that too.

South Africa needs "concerted effort into research" on dagga, the Agricultural Business Chamber (Agbiz) said this week – but not necessarily around decriminalising recreational use of cannabis.

Instead the body, which represents some of the biggest farming companies in South Africa and those who fund them, wants South Africa to explore the possible benefits of "controlled, international trade in cannabis," it said in a briefing note this week.

The body is not arguing that South Africa should adopt any particular policy on dagga, it made clear, just more research to help policymakers evaluate the benefits – "and possible unintended consequences" – of growing cannabis.

See also: The South African dagga industry could be worth R27 billion within four years – but export-quality cannabis may be a problem

The ideal provinces in which to grow marijuana are the Eastern Cape, KwaZulu-Natal, and Limpopo, Agbiz economist Wandile Sihlobo pointed out in the note. These provinces also happen to feature between 1.6 million and 1.8 million hectares of currently under-utilised land.

Sihlobo identified Canada and China, and some states with the USA, as potential export markets for South African dagga.

South Africa already trades agricultural commodities with those countries, and adding cannabis to the mix would amount to adding extra value to that trade.

Exploring exports and medicinal dagga use in the South African market should be the focus, Agbiz said, while private South African use "might not be where the commercial value lies".

See also: 8 South African dagga-inspired products we never knew existed - including bath bombs, ice cream and beer

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