Has it gone to pot? Experts boast benefits in letting the cannabis industry grow

Amendments to the Cannabis for Private Use Bill have been proposed for 2022, which would allow more flexible use and promote the growth of a commercial cannabis industry in South Africa.

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JOHANNESBURG - The decision on whether or not to legalise cannabis has been greatly debated across the world. Those against it believe that it’s a gateway drug that will lead to more drug use, while those for it believe that the government should not be overregulating the relatively harmless actions of consenting adults.

According to experts in the cannabis industry. the development of a commercialised cannabis industry in South Africa would come with significant economic benefits. Benefits like jobs that South Africa desperately needs.

LEGALISATION

The recreational use of cannabis in the private spaces was legalised in 2018 through a Supreme Court of Appeal judgment. In 2020 a Bill was tabled in Parliament to legalise the use of cannabis for private purposes. This Bill would allow for individuals to grow a limited amount of the plant and use cannabis in private dwellings.

Individuals could grow the plant in their personal gardens, provided the space was not shared, and if it was, it had to be a completely private space around consenting adults. An individual living alone could own a maximum of 600g of the plant (A 460-page book is about 600g on average) and a household with two or more could have a maximum of 1.2kg of cannabis (an overfull bag of sugar).

This Bill would also allow the expungement of criminal records for people with minor cannabis-related offences.

Amendments to the Cannabis for Private Use Bill have been proposed for 2022, which would allow more flexible use and promote the growth of a commercial cannabis industry in South Africa.

Tony Budden, the owner and co-founder of Hemporium, said that the Bill as it stood only made cannabis legally accessible for a small percentage of society, who had access to completely private dwellings.

"You can’t give a right that is only truly accessible to a small, privileged percentage of the population, and then keep criminalising everyone else," said Budden.

The new Bill, however, would allow cannabis to be commercialised, which could potentially see the creation of over 130, 000 jobs in the industry.

Budden believed that in order to create those jobs we needed to focus on developing a local market rather than focusing on just cultivation and exports.

He also estimated that the black market cannabis industry could already be valued at around R28 billion a year, which was the predicted value of a commercialised industry.

Allowing the commercialisation of cannabis could not only legitimise the existing market but also create new market opportunities through medical cannabis use and the hemp industry.

WHERE TO BUY LEGALLY

The cannabis industry would not just be about smoking. Want to sample some cannabis, CBD or hemp products? Here are some legal vendors in South Africa:

INDUSTRY POTENTIAL

According to Silas Howarth, director of the Cannabis Expo Cape Town, the industry has grown significantly since 2018 and continued to expand throughout the pandemic.

“People who come to the Cannabis Expo are generally blown away at how big the industry is,” said Howarth.

There was also potential for growth into overseas markets. Howarth stated that he had recently come from a cannabis expo in Spain where many international companies showed great interest in cannabis business in Africa.

The Bill will likely be passed by Parliament in April this year, and it will then go on to the National Council of Provinces (NCOP).

Budden concluded, “The explosion over the last few years is a sign of a maturing industry. We need the regulators to step up and make sure the consumers and customers are protected.”