Tito Mboweni's giant, 'accidental' dagga plant is doing well – but not so well as to be illegal yet

Business Insider SA
Tito Mboweni's giant dagga plant
(Tito Mboweni, via Twitter)
  • Finance minister Tito Mboweni's habit of tweeting from his farm on weekends is giving us snapshots of the growth of a giant cannabis plant he just happened to discover.
  • It seems to be doing well since it received an expert rating of 8.625 out of 10 in January.
  • Its health and size is not likely to get Mboweni in trouble, lawyers say, even before dagga is fully legalised for commercial production, as Mboweni would like it to be.
  • Go to the Business Insider South Africa homepage for more stories.

Finance minister Tito Mboweni's giant cannabis plant continues to thrive – but not to the extent that he could be said to be entering into illegal commercial production yet.

On the weekend Mboweni indulged in one of his regular hobbies: live-tweeting a visit to his Magoebaskloof farm, complete with a near blow-by-blow as he prepared food.

He also gave his more than 500,000 followers updates on his pet chickens... 

... and the cannabis plant that has, apparently, sprouted unaided on his property, and then grew to prodigious size.

Though he posted several tweets about the dagga, all used the same image, making it hard to estimate its exact size. But the multi-headed plant appears to be well over two metres tall with sturdy stems, and it is not entirely alone.

Tito's weed has a companion.
(Tito Mboweni, via Twitter)

Mboweni posted about the plant on 9 January, with a promise to push for the legalisation of dagga. He remains a firm proponent of full legalisation, with an eye to the tax revenue the SA government could claim from legal production.

But Mboweni's images show no sign that he is preparing for commercial cultivation of cannabis, which means he remains on the right side of the law as it presently stands, lawyers say.

Both private use and private cultivation of dagga was decriminalised by a Constitutional Court judgment in September 2018

"If he intends to sell it, then he's outside of the law. Presently, he's just posting photos of it and driving debate around whether it should be fully legalised for commercial use. I don't see that he prima facie falls foul of any laws," said Paul-Michael Keichel, a partner at Schindlers Attorneys who has been at the forefront of changes to the law.

Though Mboweni is showing off the plant in public, his farm remains a private space, Keichel said. "It's not like me posting a photo of my garden on social media turns it from a private space into a public one."

Expert commentators – who rated Mboweni's plant at 8.625 out of a possible 10 in January – have commented on the plant's excellent condition, as well as the fact that it appears to have been grazed on in the past, making clear that it is not tended to and is not being commercially managed.

Receive a daily update on your cellphone with all our latest news: click here.

Also from Business Insider South Africa: