Department of agriculture announces plan to tap into R28 billion marijuana industry.

The Department of Agriculture, Land Reform and Rural Development unveiled its cannabis master plan to parliament on Wednesday, August 25, 2021. The plan looks to develop growing and manufacturing training programmes, focusing on increasing awareness of the benefits of cannabis and eliminating stigmas that shroud the herb. The plan could blaze a new path for South Africa’s economy.

According to the new plan, the country’s cannabis industry is worth around R28 billion, and could potentially create 25 000 jobs, a much-needed boost after Statistics South Africa’s quarterly labour force survey revealed an unemployment rate of 34.4% in the second quarter of 2021.

The agriculture department hopes that the establishment of a cannabis industry will lead to diversification of the economy and increase formal foreign investment. This could then support an increase in economic growth, create jobs and mitigate national poverty.

Following the decriminalised use and cultivation of cannabis in private spaces in September 2018, further studies into the viability of the cannabis industry in South Africa have been done. At present, the billions of rand industry mostly operates illegally. The plan aims to bring illegal growers into the formal system and provide support to small and traditional growers.

South Africa has experienced staggering poverty levels for many years, and the implementation of this plan could be part of the solution. “Marijuana has the capacity to help the poorest of the poor; it is just a matter of formalising it,” Wits cannabis researcher and advocate, Philasande Cele, told Wits Vuvuzela.

During a live presentation in parliament, questions were asked about the depth of consultation by government with informal players and stakeholders.

According to ANC MP, Xola Nqolan, the Rastafarian community needs to be consulted, as they have a historical link to the use of cannabis. The plan does state that indigenous growers and sellers will be prioritised.

The blueprint also includes encouraging the cultivation of hemp and marijuana, for applications ranging from medicine and food, as well as for recreational use.

African Christian Democratic Party (ACDP) MP, Steve Swart, however, argued that the health department had failed to effectively discuss the medical benefits of cannabis use.

Thabo Ramashala from the agriculture department said cannabis will undergo benchmarking, to test the quality levels of the product for use in local and global markets.

Emphasis will also be placed on establishing a seed supply system. Those involved in breeding and growing will need to be registered and certified by government.

FEATURED IMAGE:  Department of agriculture blazes a new path for South Africa’s economy  Photo: Kemiso Wessie