South Africa poised for cannabis trade despite obstacles

Publish Date
Wednesday, 26 December 2018, 9:52a.m.
2018 has been called the "year for cannabis" in South Africa. Photo / AP
2018 has been called the "year for cannabis" in South Africa. Photo / AP

Hurdles remain before a legal marijuana industry can flourish in South Africa.

Advocates rejoiced at a Constitutional Court decision in September that upheld the legalisation of the adult use and cultivation of pot in private. A cannabis expo in Pretoria this month was Africa's first, organisers said. But buying and selling cannabis for recreational reasons remains illegal, and an onerous licensing process has held up the cultivation and sale of medical marijuana.

The packed expo reflected the view that cannabis has big business potential, particularly for export. South Africa has a good growing climate for cannabis, also known locally as "dagga," and low labour and production costs compared to consumer nations in the West.

"Gone are the days of the stigma of the lazy stoner, sitting at home," said Andrew Lawrie of Schindlers Attorneys, a South African firm that has a department dedicated to cannabis law. "They are around, but now we're talking about industry, we're talking about corporations, we're talking about tax."

Lesotho has already issued permits to some foreign-owned companies to grow and export medical marijuana. Zimbabwe and Malawi, are moving in a similar direction.

Rob Davies, the Trade and Industry Minister, said the Government is assessing South Africa's potential to become "an active player" in the market for cannabis-related products.

Parliament is expected to determine soon what quantity of marijuana is deemed acceptable for personal use and cultivation, since the Constitutional Court did not offer specifics.

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