Gauteng ready to implement cannabis plan and develop the industry, says senior government official Mpho Parks Tau

He told a cannabis webinar that not only is the Gauteng provincial government ready, but systems and initiatives to ease doing business in cannabis in Gauteng are in place.

By Edward Tsumele, Cannabis Business Africa/CBA Editor

The Gauteng Provincial Government is ready to roll out the red carpet for those looking forward to investing in the cannabis industry in general and in the hemp sector in particular in the province. This assuring commitment to developing this multi-billion dolar industry in Gauteng was made by MEC for Economic Development, Agriculture and Rural Development Mpho Parks Tau at a cannabis conference hosted by (GDED) and (GARD).

Addressing over 400 delegates who attended the virtual conference on Wednesday, June, 23, 2021, Tau revealed that Gauteng government will in the next few weeks be organizing a series of webinars to be attended by cannabis entrepreneurs and these events that will be held virtually due to the uncertain situation of Covid-19, will look at the whole value chain of especially industrial hemp, the focus of the provincial government.

The conference also discussed the issue of the legal framework, as guided by the National Cannabis Master Plan, developed by the Department of Agriculture, Land Reform and Rural development in association with the Departments of Health, Department of Justice and the Department of Police.

The plan was coincidentally tabled at Nedlac on the same day as the conference, to be discussed by stakeholders that include government, worker representatives and big business, out of which discussions, a polished master plan is expected to emerge. It is this document that will guide policy makers to craft relevant legislation, including amending some current legislation to create an enabling environment for a sector that all along fell outside the law.

Gauteng has identified 10 areas targeted as areas of growth, including transportation, energy, food processing, cultural events, tourism and industrial cannabis is one of them. Cannabis has the potential to contribute to the local economy, especially because the climate suits the growing of cannabis. This conference is talking place coincidentally on the same day when theCannabis Master Plan is being tabled at Nedlac. The minsier has assured us that the legal framework for cannabis will be concluded by the end of this year, and as Gauteng we are preparing ourselves for implementing the master pan once it is done. A lot of work in preparation for this industry has been taking place.

The following are being put in place: :a provincial cannabis steering committee to liaise with the national government, the development of a data base for cannabis entrepreneurs, financing inclusivity,  research into cannabis and investor facilitation and identification of industrial zones.

“We want to make sure that no one is left behind as they should be equity in participation. Issue of Broad Based Black Economic Empowerment (BBBEE) must be therefore be dealth with upfront to insure inclusivity in the whole value chain of cannabis instead of looking at it after. In this regardd we wil work with small holder farmers” said Tau.

A representative of the Department of Agriculture, land reform and Rural development reiterated what Minister Thoko Didiza said in her recent Budget Speech in parliament that  her department will dish out the first hemp licenses by October, 2021.

“Hemp has now been removed from the department of health and is now with the department, of Agriculture, Land Reform and Rural Hevelopment. This means that the tight restrictions that were in place for people to get licenses from the South African Health Products regulatory Authority (SAHPRA, an agency of the department of Health) no longer apply. The recommendation the Department of Agriculture, land reform and Rural Development, it made in the master plan with regards to hemp is part of the discussion at Nedlacc. What I can say though is that the department is ready to issue licenses come October 1, and the application process will be online and will be as simple as possible to fill in. People will also be able to come directly to the department to fill in the application forms,” said . Cecil Mogase from the Department Agriculture, Land Reform and Rural Development (nationalDALRRD: Regulatory framework – Hemp licensing..

He however revealed that part of the recommendations the department of Agriculture, Land Reform and Rural Development  made in the master plan in association with the Department of health, Police and Justice also  includes that those who intend to farm hemp must make sure that their properties where they farm are fenced and are under lock and key at all times and the seeds they use must also be registered in order to prevent cross pollination of cultivars.

We however have been working closely with (CSIR) Centre for Scientific and Industrial Research, which over the years have developed two genetics of cannabis,” said Mogase.

A representative of SAHPRA, Daphney Fafudi Manager at South African Health Products regulatory Authority (SAHPRA): Regulatory Compliance unit: Regulatory framework – Cannabis licensing was at pain to explain that sometimes out of frustration entrepreneurs eager to get licenses and who find the  process difficult  unfairly take their frustration on SAHPRA.

SAHPRA does not make policy as that role lies elsewhere in government. What SAHPRA does is to enforce the existing law that has been made by another government department (Department of Justice), that that law currently is under the Medicines Act. What we have found out is that out of frustration some people misdirect their criticism to SAHPRA,” said.

Other speakers from the industry who spoke include Ms. Dorah Modise Deputy Director General- from GDARD:who was part of the  panel of discussion on: Unlocking the Gauteng cannabis/hemp economy and  Sibusiso Xaba Chief Executive Officer of ACA Group: Panelist on discussion of: Unlocking the Gauteng cannabis/hemp economy and Ayanda Bam, panelist on discussion of: Unlocking the Gauteng cannabis/hemp economy and an activist from an industry organizations friends of hemp and a cannabis consultant with considerable cannabis business experience gained in the US.

Bam accused the department of Justice and the department of Police for their apparent absence at cannabis webinars where their input is needed most, especially as police stand accused of arbitrarily and constantly arresting and ‘harassing those who in the cannabis business as the framework is being worked out.

“The main culprit in all this is the Drugs and Drug Trafficking  Act of 1992, and the medicine Act.. Unless and until we deal with these two pieces of legislation, then we have no business being here and discussing this. These two legislations dating back to apartheid are the main hurdles to a thriving cannabis industry in this country,” said Bam.

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