Move to legalise cannabis in US set to be a game changer in Africa too

By Edward Tsumele

When a mob stormed the Capitol Complex, the city of democracy and [power in the US on January 6, the whole world watched in both disbelief and despair. Not only is the US regarded as the custodian of democracy, but is the world’s super power both economically and politically. And therefore the reaction of the world to the chaotic events in the US, days before the inauguration of the new President Joe Biden is understandable

What is also understandable is the move towards, if not completely legalizing, at least decriminalizing cannabis for both commercial and recreational use by some countries in the world, and increasingly on the African continent, led by the continent’s economic power, South Africa.

While the movement towards either decriminalising and legalizing cannabis has been taking place for a while, within the confines of some states in the US both for recreational use and for commercial exploitation, including medical cannabis, with the new government there led by the victorious democrats in the recent elections, the movement towards full legalization of cannabis is set to increase in speed.

For example, the new Majority Leader of the Senate, Democrat Chucky Schumer, is in favour of decriminalizing cannabis. In fact he plans s to intensify that process, not only putting on the floor his own bill for decriminalising cannabis, but merging this bill with others on the table.

This move has made role players in the US’s lucrative cannabis industry excited, who welcome the new Senate Majority Leader’s crucial lead role in the raging battle for legalising cannabis.

If the US at federal level gets to decriminalise cannabis, as it looks likely, especially also as the new US President Biden, though he does not support complete legalisatiion, is however said to be receptive to some level of decriminalization, this is set to have a ripple effect on the African continent.

And indeed this is good news for those who have seen the potential of the cannabis industry, especially industrial cannabis becoming vehicle for job creation and economic development.

South Africa already has legalised the growing, cultivation and processing of some cannabis  products for companies that have been granted permits by the South African Health Products Regulatory Authority (SAHPRA).

Already CBD derived products (products that do not have the psychoactive compound THC that causes the high in cannabis among smokers) have emerged n the market and are legal to sell to the public, including oils, supplements and hemp products.

Encouragingly, the United nations in December relaxed the 69 year restrictive scheduling of cannabis, that saw it lumped together with hard drugs, such as heroine into a new less restrictive schedules, effectively allowing countries to relax their laws around cannabis and its derived CBD products. This also allows for research into medical cannabis.

Meanwhile, at the end of  January Hemp Industry Cannabis Daily, a cannabis industry publication based in the US reported that Thailand has  legalized fully the commercial and medical exploitation of hemp, a development South African cannabis industrialists say this could be a model the country could look at close to see If it cannot be replicated here.

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