The rest of the country might be easing into the working year, but Finance Minister Tito Mboweni is considering the prospect of billions which, according to him, could come from a fully legalised cannabis industry.
Mboweni on Thursday evening took to social media networking site, Twitter, to share images of cannabis plants from a farm at an undisclosed location. He extolled the potential that legalised cannabis could have for the South African economy and the South African Revenue Service’s collections.
Following the 2018 Constitutional Court judgement, the private possession, use and cultivation of cannabis has been de-criminalised and Parliament must now make the legislative adjustments to accommodate this. Selling cannabis at any scale remains, for the most part, illegal.
Mboweni tweeted to his 481 803 followers, asking for their opinions on whether sale of the plant should be made legal. While tweets from a Cabinet minister cannot be construed as government decisions, he stressed that we would, at least personally, be taking all inputs seriously.
"I found this growing at the Farm! Cut it down or allow it to grow? How did it get here? Should we just legalize [sic] this thing once and for all? I can see the responses! Say it," said Mboweni.
Mboweni said there were a number of sites around the country, particularly in Limpopo Province, which he argued could give billions in tax money to SARS, if the industry could be legalised.
He did not clarify his calculations.
"My neighbor found this thing too! The soil is ready in Makgobaskloof to grow it legally! The economy of Lusikisiki and Tzaneen is waiting for legal growth of the stuff!! R4bn plus!! Tax money," Mboweni said.
While Mboweni's observations on Twitter do not directly qualify as a means to inform government policy, Mboweni said most of his followers were in support of the idea.
"On this one, the majority says: legalise! I will put the proposal to legalize [sic] it at the Cabinet Lekgotla this January. The People have demanded it. But those medical doctors…," Mboweni tweeted.
Although the minister was hearing South Africans out on the issue, the fact that he tweeted a YouTube link to the song Legalise It by reggae legend Peter Tosh might signify that he had already made up his mind.
Fin24 contacted National Treasury for comment after hours on Thursday evening. This story will be updated as soon as comment becomes available.