Mzansi Agriculture Talk

Agriculture

Cannabis licence – A tricky slope

The ‘green gold’ economy may soon disappear from the eyes of those who have been farming with this product for years.

 In 2019 only four companies were issued with licenses to export cannabis including a farm which recently obtained its license. 

Polkadraai Farm in Stellenbosch was issued with a license to grow up to 20 tonnes of weed on its premises.

“But not to sell it to the public,” said farm owner Leslie Zettler.

In September 2018, the Constitutional Court decriminalised the private use of cannabis however reserved its judgment to its selling or dealing. 

“The right to privacy is not confined to a home or private dwelling. It will not be a criminal offence for an adult person to use or be in possession of cannabis in private space,” said Deputy Chief Justice Raymond Zondo. 

The Medicine Control Council of South Africa (MCC), a drug regulatory authority operating under the Medicines and Related Substances Act, 1965 (Act 101 of 1965) only issues cannabis license to medical practitioners for export use and to administer the drug on patients with “certain exceptional circumstances.” 

To be a cannabis drug manufacturer is a strenuous process in itself. The cost to apply for a manufacturer’s licence costs approximately R21 800 with an irrigation system on hectare costing somewhere between R800 000 – R1.2million. 

In cultivating cannabis, the MCC guidelines set a discriminatory profile of an applicant. “The Applicant’s interactions and associations will be considered by the MCC in assessing whether the fit and proper person principle are met, taking into account convictions, the imposition of civil penalties, revocation of medicine regulation licenses, and the financial situation of individuals.” 

The stringent regulations follow the Department of Agriculture, Land Reform and Rural Development good agricultural practices. Regulated under the Good Manufacturing Practice (GMP), the aim is to ensure that cannabis is contaminated free and can be used for manufacturing medicines purposes. 

The Department of Health (DH) was facing mounting pressure from religious and community groups to declassify cannabis as Schedule 7 substance. According to the DH, it was illegal to “cultivate, analyse, research, possess, use, sell or supply cannabis without the necessary authorization from the Department of Health as per the legislative requirements.”

Gareth Prince, a Rastafarian and legal graduate has been fighting for cannabis to be decriminalised for over 20 years. He was elated by the court’s decision but hoped the Rastafarian community will not be excluded from the cannabis economic opportunities. 

“I look forward to providing my inputs to Parliament and chart a new way forward,” he said. 

Approximately 13 months after the Apex court gave its ruling, there is still no word as to how MCC intends to amend the current legislation. 

Cannabis licence – A tricky slope
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