Government says its working towards new hemp laws following cannabis ruling – here’s what you need to know

The Department of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries (DAFF) has noted the Constitutional Court ruling on the decriminalization of the cultivation and private use of cannabis.

In a statement, the department said that the judgement follows similar developments around the world where various countries are decriminalising cannabis either for medicinal use, recreational purposes or for both.

Notably, Canada’s senate passed its Cannabis Act in June this year. Countries such as Uruguay, Netherlands, Panama and few others have long legalized the use of the plant, while Lesotho and Zimbabwe have also decriminalise the cannabis cultivation and its use.

“Some US states where the use of the plant has been legalised show a huge potential for job creation in both the medical production space and in the recreational space. In 2017 alone, it accounted for over 100,000 active jobs with billions of US dollars contribution to their economy,” it said.

“Whilst our parliament has been given 24 months to develop a law that will give more clarity in line with the ruling, it is important to note that as government recognising the medicinal efficacies of this plant, have been doing work around this area in the context of the hemp.”

It added that an inter-departmental team is currently developing a new regulatory framework for hemp. This team is made up of the DAFF, Health, Trade and Industry, Environmental Affairs, Justice and Constitutional Development as well as the South African Police Service.

The team also includes State Owned Entities (SOEs) like Agricultural Research Council (ARC) and the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR), it said.

“Much progress had been made in terms of dealing with technical matters regarding the production of hemp, research and technology development, commercial feasibility and other related matters.

“DAFF and the Department of Health are developing guidelines for regulating the cultivation and manufacturing of hemp and hemp products.

“As a result of the ongoing engagements amongst the different departments, DAFF has already formally requested the departments of Health and Justice and Constitutional Development to consider the necessary legislative amendments to allow for the commercialisation of hemp in South Africa. DAFF awaits a response from these departments.”

Vapes, sprays, tablets and oils

In a parliamentary Q&A session in August, Minister of Trade and Industry Rob Davies confirmed that opportunities and obstacles to developing industrial capacity and capability for medicinal cannabis and related products would be considered.

According to a report by News24, Davies said that the focus would be to understand the obstacles and opportunities involved in the cultivation of different strains of cannabis with specific THC and CBD composition, the recovery of these compounds in the oil extraction process, and the beneficiation of THC and CBD through the production of medical products.

CBD (cannabidiol) and THC (tetrahydrocannabinol) are both compounds found in cannabis – the former being a non-psychoactive that is becoming increasingly valued for its medicinal properties, and the latter being associated with euphoria and relaxation.

Multiple delivery systems such as vapes, sprays, tablets, oils as well as cosmetic and healthcare products such as balms, creams and tinctures would be researched, he said.

“The outcomes of this study will determine a way forward in terms of industrialising this sector in South Africa. Once the study has been concluded, I will engage the Ministers of Health and Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries,” Davies said.

Read: What South African businesses need to know about cannabis oil

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Government says its working towards new hemp laws following cannabis ruling – here’s what you need to know