By Edward Tsumele
The South African government recently held its first major indaba with role players in the emerging cannabis industry on March 30, 2021 to discuss the National Cannabis Master Plan championed by the Depart of Agriculture, Land Reform and Rural Development.
This indaba was a boost to this emerging industry in which there are still grey areas as far as the current legislative environment is concerned, calling for the need to develop a legal framework that will regulate the industry.
The holding of this indaba at which the department whose political head is Thoko Didiza as minister responsible, unveiled the cannabis master plan was hailed in the cannabis industry as the right move.
And also the fact that the driver of reform in legislation is being driven by a department in charge of agriculture instead of health as initially understood was especially encouraging to a sector whose expected rapid growth in South Africa is stifled by the slow pace of legal reforms, was especially welcomed by the sector.
The sector believes that there is a need to regard the cannabis plant itself as a crop and its farming must be regulated by farming regulations, and only when it comes to the manufacturing of products that legislation governing health issues must kick in, including the licensing issues.
However at the indaba cannabis entrepreneurs also had an opportunity to indicate problems areas currently that they believe are undermining their efforts to develop the market , particularly in the booming CBD sector. Currently retailers can under an existing exemption by the South African Health Products Regulatory Authority, (SAHPRA), get supplies of CBD products from licensed manufacturers that can be sold on the open retail market without a need for a license for participating retailers.
This provision which expires this May, and is expected to be renewed, has indeed opened the doors for small players to enter the market as the capital outlay is relatively small.
That exemption however sets specific limits to daily dosages allowed as well as per packaging specifications. It is this daily dosage limit that the cannabis industry has an issue with, arguing that it is too small to be effective to users, and is not based on science as it seems to have been decided on without science consideration.
And that is not all, as it turns out, SAHPRA also seems to be also tightening strings further in the CBD sector with more restrictions planned.
As a result cannabis entrepreneurs are taking SHAPRA to court, with Cannabis Traders Association (CTAA) having approached the courts on April 28, 2021. This follows complains by its chairman Tebogo Tlhopane during the cannabis indaba where he complained about the maximum dosage limits for CBD products, threatening that his association was contemplating taking SAHPRA to court over the issue.
And true to his word CTAA has taken SAHPRA to court over the issue.