The Department of Rural Development and Agrarian Reform in the Eastern Cape has approved the development of a cannabis college as a means of creating jobs in the impoverished province.
The training facility will upskill farmers in the growing and distribution of cannabis, and will assist with seed, fertilisers and fencing.
It is set to be built in the Ingquza Hill Local Municipality in Lusisiki, picked because of its ideal growing conditions.
“The Eastern Cape is constantly searching for ideas and ways on how to contribute to the growth of domestic product of the province, said the MEC for Rural Development and Agrarian Reform, Nomakhosazana Meth, in an interview with 702.
“Lusiski is known to be ‘the world’s capital of cannabis’ and this is a very important industry, so we need to exploit it in our province. We want to make sure we embrace cannabis for medical and commercial purposes.”
Meth said that government has ‘shifted’ since the constitutional court decision to legalise the private use of cannabis and is now readying itself for legislative changes.
She said she will approach cabinet with the proposal next week and that the project could be up and running within the next year.
“This is a plant that is green gold. We must be pushing government to say that we are ready.”
Money to be made
In 2018 the Constitutional Court unanimously ruled to decriminalise the private possession, consumption and cultivation of cannabis, in South Africa.
The government now has until September 2020 to bring legislation on cannabis in line with the constitution, according to Joanne van Harmelen, an attorney at ENSAfrica.
“Since 2018, the manufacture, import and sale of cannabis-related products other than those containing tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) has taken off.
“This is partly due to a 12-month exemption published in the Government Gazette that will expire in May 2020 in which cannabis health supplement products were de-scheduled,” she said.
Van Harmelen said that South Africa has ideal conditions for growing cannabis, particularly in the provinces of KwaZulu-Natal, Limpopo, Eastern Cape and Western Cape, although with modern growing techniques, including hydroponics, the crop could ostensibly be grown anywhere.
According to the United Nations, South Africa produces about 2,300 tons of marijuana annually and is the third-largest producer in Africa.
These provincial governments have all expressed a desire to facilitate cannabis cultivation in their provinces, and it will be interesting to see what specific programmes to support the industry will be developed.
“It is presently illegal to cultivate cannabis commercially without a licence from SAHPRA and at the time of writing, only four licences have been approved for the cultivation, import and export of medicinal cannabis,” said van Harmelen.
“However, these licences do not allow the local manufacturing or sale of medicinal products and, to date, SAHPRA has issued no such licences. In addition, there have been no medicinal product registrations to date.
“At present, the plants cultivated on these farms are exported for processing into various cannabis products – clearly a revenue stream opportunity that is for now being missed in South Africa.”
A licence to cultivate currently costs R23,000.
However, the ultimate cost would likely be far higher if it includes the additional requirements set out in the current draft guidelines issued by the Department of Health, including training of personnel, security measures required and additional approvals that may be required for good manufacturing, laboratory, agricultural and collection practices relating to the cultivation, harvesting and primary processing of cannabis plants intended for medicinal use.
“It seems likely that South African legislation relating to cannabis will evolve quickly to untap the significant market potential associated with the cannabis industry,” said van Harmelen.