Dagga ingredient CBD just became fully legal for anyone to sell in South Africa – but only for the next year

Business Insider SA
Dagga regulation

    • Cannabidiol (CBD), a compound derived from dagga, was this week removed from South Africa's list of highly-controlled drugs and is now officially available on prescription.
    • That change has long been anticipated.
    • But health minister Aaron Motsoaledi threw in a bonus: low-dose CBD products are, for the next 12 months, entirely outside drug regulations.
    • Terms and conditions apply, though.
    • For more stories, go to

    The legal status of cannabidiol (CBD), a compound derived from dagga that is showing up in everything from sore-muscle creams to beer, just changed in South Africa – rather more dramatically than had been expected.

    For the next 12 months at least "preparations" containing CBD will fall entirely outside the scheduling system that controls drugs in South Africa, in terms of an exemption gazetted by health minister Aaron Motsoaledi on Thursday.

    That makes such CBD preparations legal to sell – by anyone, not just pharmacists – without prescription.

    All evidence suggests that CBD is not psychoactive and is neither habit-forming nor does it come with dangerous side-effects. Though efficacy studies are not yet conclusive, it is widely touted as a potential treatment for anxiety, insomnia, and chronic pain, and is used by people with everything from arthritis to seizures.

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

    The exemption comes with two conditions: the maximum daily dose of CBD must be 20 milligrams or less, and the product can not claim to cure or treat any specific condition. It may only advertise "general health enhancement", or "health maintenance", or promise "relief of minor symptoms", as long as those symptoms are not linked to a disease or disorder.

    Alternatively, manufacturers and retailers can also claim the protection of the exemption for products made "from cannabis raw plant material and processed products" as long as no extra CBD is added, and the final product contains only a tiny fraction of CBD (0.0075%) and a maximum of 0.001% tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), the main psychoactive in marijuana.

    Unless renewed, the exemption will expire on 15 May 2020.

    The exemption is a dramatic change from the previous status quo, under which special dispensation was required to use any dagga-derived medicine in South Africa – which meant that as of February this year, only 56 people in South Africa had fully legal access to such preparations.

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

    As anticipated, Motsoaledi simultaneously struck CBD from schedule 7 of South Africa's drug classification system, where it was controlled as strictly as heroin. Instead it is now – outside the temporary exemption – rated as a schedule 4 drug, available from pharmacists under prescription, alongside antibiotics.

    Potential providers of CBD products in South Africa have objected vociferously to CBD becoming a schedule 4 substance, arguing it should be available freely over the shelf.

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