Marijuana at sunset
(Getty)

  • Government has proposed a draft national master plan which aims to loosen regulations in the cannabis industry to promote economic development. 
  • It wants to help create export markets for dagga growers.
  • Government plans to amend legislation to remove existing constraints that hinder commercialisation.
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Government recently released a draft national master plan to commercialise South Africa's cannabis industry, which include both dagga and hemp.

The department of agriculture, land reform and rural development proposes to relax restrictions, including by changing legislation. It wants to establish a globally competitive cannabis industry in the country, produce more cannabis for local and export purposes and to increase investment in research in the industry.

Currently, the South African cannabis industry – which has largely operated underground – is already considered to be worth billions. According to one estimate, the industry could be worth R27 billion by 2023. It is estimated that more than 900,000 small-scale farmers in the Eastern Cape, KwaZulu-Natal and other provinces have been cultivating dagga for many years. 

The department believes the further development of the cannabis industry will contribute towards economic development, alleviation of poverty through job creation, promote rural development and inclusive participation.  

According to the master plan, government plans these interventions;   

  • The amendment of existing legislation by removing existing constraints that hinder commercialisation
  • The implementation of breeding programmes for new dagga and hemp cultivars,
  • Supporting research and development programmes for the country’s cannabis industry,
  • Mobilising and supporting farmers to participate in the cannabis value chains
  • Developing new domestic and export markets for the South African cannabis industry
  • Including indigenous dagga growers in the value chain
  • Developing and supporting the growth and development of the manufacturing and product development capacity of the South African cannabis sector.
  • Providing a framework on education and training matters in support of the cannabis industry
  • Communicating a clear and unambiguous message about the cannabis industry and related matters to all stakeholders and the public.

Although in 2018 the Constitutional Court of South Africa ruled that South Africans can smoke the recreational substance in their own privacy, there are still strict regulations in place. 

Last year, government published the Cannabis For Private Purposes Bill which stipulates that people who deal in cannabis or sell it to a minor will likely face 15 year of jail time.

The regulations also state that anyone who smokes the substance in public or too close to a non-consenting adult will face up to two years in jail, while a jail sentence of up to four years is to be expected for those who smoke close to children.

For those living alone, the rules state that they can have unlimited seeds but a maximum of four flowering plants for personal use only.

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