According to 2019 African Cannabis report released by Prohibition Partners, South African indigenous Khoisan and Bantu people used cannabis before European settlers arrived in the Cape in 1652. The plant was also traditionally used by the Basotho to help with childbirth. The Dutch East India Company tried to establish a cannabis sales monopoly, and therefore prohibited cannabis cultivation by Cape settlers from 1680. There was, however, little profit from this due to cannabis growing readily in the wild, and the prohibition was lifted in 1700. In 1891, the Cape Colony prohibited cannabis under Act 34, and cannabis trade was outlawed by the Free State in 1903. Fats forward to September 2018, the South African Constitutional Court legalized the growing of cannabis for private purposes and the use of cannabis for adults in private places. The court ruled a previous law which had banned cannabis as unconstitutional. However, the Constitutional Court ruling failed to define ‘private use’ of cannabis. It was unclear from the court ruling whether privacy referred to the place in which cannabis was consumed, or whether the focus was on personal use for medicinal purposes.
The Constitutional ruling has opened a great opportunity for farmers, particularly, black farmers to cultivate and trade on cannabis. The cannabis can be planted for medical purposes or for personal use. For medicinal use, farmers need to obtain a permit from the South African Health Products Regulatory Authority (SAHPRA) but this process of obtaining the license is complicated and costly. The cost of obtain the permit could be as high as two million Rand talking into account all processes and compliance requirements. This could limit the participation of black farmers that are resourced constrained to actively participate in this industry. South Africa just like other SACU countries offers the world’ most potential into growing quality cannabis because of the unique climate and soil types. It is estimated that about 38 000 tons of cannabis are produced in Africa per annum and SACU countries contributes as increasing share to this production. Cannabis production could assist to reduce high level of unemployment and poverty, particularly in rural areas of Eastern Cape, KwaZulu Natal and parts of Mpumalanga and Limpopo Provinces. In terms of consumption, about 35% of South African population older than 13 years of age have smoked cannabis; 14.3% of Nigerian population have consumed cannabis; 9.5% in Zambia and 9.1% in Madagascar. These illustrate the strong demand for the cannabis product. In South Africa, the average price per gram of cannabis is US$8.5 which is equivalent to R200 per gram. South African government is in the process of establishing strong legislative documents to control the production and use of cannabis in the country.