South African cannabis gets a voice

South African Cannabis Development Association

A Cannabis Development Council for South Africa (CDCSA) is being formed to advance the hemp and marijuana sectors in the country. Organizers say each SA province will form its own association to contribute to the formation of a national council with similar goals.

The effort aims “to make South Africa a world class economy through maximum exploration and exploitation of the potential in cannabis as a natural renewable resource,” according to the CDCSA mission statement. The group has identified 19 industries as targets for development in a cannabis cluster based on industrial hemp and marijuana that they say can provide jobs and economic development for South Africa’s most impoverished rural communities.

Diverse stakeholders

Foundation meetings have now been held in most provinces, and more than 100 people from Western Cape attended an informational meeting in late September. Stakeholders and potential new startups came from a diverse group of South Africans including traditional leaders, traditional healers, Rastafarians, doctors, veterinarians, and home growers, organizers said.

CDCSA meeting

More than 100 stakeholders attended last month’s meeting of the CDCSA.

“We’re in a position we’ve never been in before. Which is we’re being heard,” said long-time activist and entrepreneur Tony Budden, who led the recent meeting. “We’re finally having a voice that somebody’s listening to, and they’ve realized the benefits of the plant itself are what we have to offer.” Government ministries and departments understand cannabis’ potential, Budden said, noting “they’ve all told us to form an association” that can interface with official agencies to set an industry framework.

Part of the group’s effort will go toward the formation of a South African cannabis regulatory authority to ensure a level playing field in the permitting and licensing process. CDCSA is proposing a licensing regime that embraces growers, processors and manufacturers, and wholesale and end-user markets.

MMJ, hemp markets opening

Along with providing guidance in the process of setting up legislative and regulatory structures for the cannabis industry, CDCSA says it will address a wide range of issues in what it sees as an industry that has the potential for fast growth.

Although Budden cautions that there is some uncertainty, the first licenses under the country’s federally-controlled hemp program are expected to be handed out to farmers, local government officials, startups, investors and other stakeholders within the next month. Meanwhile South African cannabis advocates see the legalization of the medical cannabis industry as imminent – and as a potential boon to the country’s economy.

“Seeing the industry open up in Lesotho, Malawi and the Democratic Republic of Congo, South Africa may be playing catch up with it’s neighbors if the delays in bureaucracy continue much longer,” Budden said.