Agriculture dept to start issuing hemp production permits in October, says Didiza

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A flowering field of industrial hemp.
A flowering field of industrial hemp.
John Greim/LightRocket via Getty Images
  • The Department of Agriculture, Land Reform and Rural Development will begin issuing and monitoring licences for hemp production in October.
  • Agriculture, Land Reform and Rural Development Minister Thoko Didiza announced this on Thursday in her budget vote speech.
  • She also urged Parliament to remove hemp from drug trafficking legislation.

About high time, some will say, but the Department of Agriculture, Land Reform and Rural Development will begin issuing and monitoring permits for the production of hemp in South Africa.

Agriculture, Land Reform and Rural Development Minister Thoko Didiza made this announcement on Thursday when she presented her department's budget vote to a virtual sitting of a mini-plenary of the National Assembly.

"The legalisation and commercialisation of cannabis have been at the forefront of public debate and on top of the agenda of policymakers globally."

She said an inter-departmental team, comprising representatives from various departments, was established to guide the development of the National Cannabis Master Plan with her department as the convener.

READ | Cop nabbed for allegedly using state vehicle to escort dagga convoy

Didiza added the Cannabis Master Plan would be presented to the National Economic Development and Labour Council (NEDLAC) before the end of this month.  

"The department will, with the help of the Department of Justice, as of October 2021, begin issuing and monitoring permits for the production of hemp in South Africa, as the first instance.

"And we hope the Portfolio Committee on Justice will actually fast-track the removal of hemp from the drug trafficking legislation so that we can indeed move with speed with the commercialisation of hemp as the first phase."

Meanwhile, the Portfolio Committee on Justice and Correctional Services has been puffing on, but not yet passing, the Cannabis for Private Purposes Bill.

The bill came about after a ruling of the Constitutional Court on 18 September 2018 gave Parliament 24 months to make the necessary legislative amendments to allow for the private use of marijuana. 

Enacted

While the deadline had gone like a haze of smoke, the interim relief granted by the court would still be in force until the amendments were enacted, the Department of Justice and Constitutional Development previously informed the committee.

To be blunt, Parliament never had a chance to reach the deadline: The bill was only approved by Cabinet in August last year, after which it was introduced to Parliament.

The purpose of the Cannabis for Private Purposes Bill was to respect the right to privacy of an adult person to possess cannabis plant cultivation material, to cultivate a prescribed quantity of cannabis plants, possess a prescribed quantity of cannabis, and to smoke and consume cannabis, according to the statement.

It further aims to regulate the possession of cannabis plant cultivation material; the cultivation of cannabis plants; the possession of cannabis and the smoking and consumption of cannabis by an adult person; protect adults and children against the harm of cannabis; and provide for the expungement of criminal records of persons convicted of possession or use of cannabis.

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