South Africa’s master plan for cannabis: rules, regulations, and adding it to the school curriculum

 ·26 Aug 2021

The Department of Agriculture, Land Reform and Rural Development estimates that the cannabis industry is worth an estimated R28 billion in South Africa, and could create anywhere between 10,000 – 25,000 jobs across the sector.

The department was presented its ‘cannabis master plan’ to parliament this week, detailing how marijuana could be incorporated into South Africa’s business sector as part of the government’s ongoing drive towards legalisation and commercialisation.

“Establishment of the cannabis industry will lead to diversification of the economy and thus increase economic growth, create jobs and for poverty alleviation,” it said.

“The cannabis sector also has huge potential in terms of the development of SMMEs, attracting domestic and foreign investment and value additions in processing and manufacturing of various products for local and export markets.”

However, before the value of South Africa’s cannabis industry can be unlocked, the department said that government needs to address a number of issues including regulations, the distribution of seeds, and education initiatives.

The department has identified these as ‘seven key pillars’.

Effective regulatory systems

This pillar focuses on developing a new regulatory framework for both hemp and dagga.

“This might include amendment of existing legislation by removing constraints that are hindering commercialisation,”the department said.

Sustainable seed supply system 

This pillar will focus on the production, processing, packaging and trade of seed and related products.

Some of the key proposals include:

  • Compulsory registration – All companies and organisations involved in breeding, multiplication and sale of cannabis seed must be registered and have valid permits to conduct their activities.
  • Certification schemes – All cannabis seed producers, packers and other role players will need to be included in a compulsory certification scheme. The schemes will ensure that all members comply with regulations regarding seed quality and all other related matters.
  • Import and export control systems – There is a need for import and export control systems and protocols for cannabis seed to be developed and implemented.
  • Variety control and listing – All cultivars of dagga and hemp will undergo testing to ensure their distinctiveness, uniformity and stability before they are released for sale on the South African market.
  • Seed testing – Seed that is destined for export market, as well as that for local markets, will be tested for quality and viability. This is aimed at ensuring that only high-quality seed is used locally as well as exported to other countries.

Research and development 

This pillar will focus on supporting research and development programmes for the South African cannabis industry.

This will include breeding programmes and the development of new technologies needed across the entire value chain.

Producer support systems 

This pillar will focus on mobilisation and supporting farmers to participate in the cannabis value chains. This also involves the inclusion of current “illegal” dagga growers into the formal system.

“The farmers will need to be supported in terms of cultivar choices, cultivation practices, pest and disease control, harvesting and post-harvest practices.

“There is also a need for dedicated funding for farmers participating in the cannabis industry. Financial support may in forms of grant funding, loans, equity, blended funding, etc.”

Market development 

The pillar will focus on developing new domestic and export markets for the South African cannabis industry.

Some of the proposals include:

  • Facilitate the development of domestic market for cannabis products.
  • Facilitate and co-ordinate the opening of export markets for South African cannabis products.
  • Facilitate public sector procurement of cannabis products from resource-poor farmers and manufacturers.
  • Facilitate the development of appropriate market support infrastructure like processing plants and storage facilities.
  • Development and implementation of incentive programmes to support the participation of resource-poor suppliers in the local and export markets for cannabis products.

Supplier development 

This pillar focuses on supporting a wide range of suppliers to participate in the cannabis value chains in order to ensure sustainable growth and development of this industry.

“The indigenous dagga growers and sellers should be included in the cannabis value chains. The same also apply to new small-scale growers from other poverty stricken areas of the country,” the department said.

Manufacturing and product development 

This pillar will focus on supporting the growth and development of the manufacturing sector for cannabis products.

“There is a need for investments in the establishment of manufacturing plants that will be used for producing food, medicine, beverages and a whole of other value-added products from raw material of both hemp and dagga,” the department said.

“The investments will come from government, private sector, donors, and state-owned entities.


This pillar is focused on providing a framework on education and training matters in support of the cannabis industry

Some of the intervention measures under this pillar include the following:

  • Development and implementation of formal and informal training programmes on cannabis-related matters across its value chains.
  • Integration of cannabis-related matters in curricula of schools, colleges and universities.
  • Support cannabis education and training programmes through the appropriate Sector Education and Training Authorities (SETAs).


“Cannabis had been shrouded in controversy for many years,” the department said.

“This pillar is focused on communicating a clear and unambiguous message about the cannabis industry and related matters to all stakeholders and the general public.”

Some of the intervention measures include:

  • Development and implementation of information and awareness programmes. The core messages will be around demystifying some of the negative perceptions about hemp, dagga and their products.
  • Promote consumer education and awareness regarding regulatory matters in order to promote compliance to government legislation and root out wrongdoers.

Read: Updated cannabis rules proposed for South Africa – including dealing with age limits and driving

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