At the start of the month, the Cannabis for Private Purposes Bill was tabled in Parliament, with comments closing on October 9.
Two years after a landmark Constitutional Court ruling decriminalised cannabis for personal and private use, it was hoped that the Bill would create a framework that allowed for business opportunities around cannabis to flourish.
Sadly, that has not been the case, with industry experts saying the draft has ‘completely missed the mark’, shutting the door where a chance for real economic growth presented itself.
Speaking to Moneyweb, law firm Cliffe Dekker Hofmeyr’s senior associate Andrew MacPherson laid out why it was so anti-climatic.
The key point is that it was drafted by the Department of Justice and Correctional Services:
“This belies a particularly conservative approach to the drafting process. The focus remains on restricting access to, and the use of, cannabis against the threat of rather severe legal consequences in the form of fines and jail time.”
MacPherson said the industry wanted a collaborative effort between the various departments such as health, agriculture and finance.
“The drafters have seemingly adopted a rather narrow and traditionalist perspective in their preparation of the Bill, which as currently constructed, does not give an inch more than was mandated by the Constitutional Court,” MacPherson said.
There is no attention given to the commercial aspects and opportunities presented by cannabis, which could have seen huge holes in our tax budget deficit plugged, which in turn could be used to stimulate the economy and keep small businesses afloat.
MacPherson has consulted widely in the industry, ranging from large corporates through to budding entrepreneurs, and the extent of what could happen if a decent Bill was drafted is clear:
…retail shops, cannabis supplies and products, cannabis dispensaries, businesses offering kits for the DIY cultivation of cannabis at homes – are waiting to be launched upon commercial legalisation.
Thankfully, the legal framework that exists does allow for cannabis members’ clubs, such as the Cape Cannabis Club, to operate, and they have seen business boom since launching.
It’s not hard to see why, when you consider that they provide members with the opportunity to have their premium cannabis grown in a number of state-of-the-art facilities, which will then be professionally packaged and delivered directly to their private address anywhere in South Africa.
You sign up, pick your membership option (how many grams you want a month and which strain), and you’re good to go:
Pro tip – the C3 trial membership allows you to “borrow a small share of a Cannabis Plant”, which means you get a free gram of cannabis delivered to your address.
Each strain evens comes with a breakdown of Indica / Sativa levels, THC content, and a description:
You don’t want to be that person who brings the strain of cannabis to the party that sends everyone to bed, do you?
Whilst C3 can legally operate, the draft Bill pumps the brakes on so many other potential opportunities, and has some glaring inconsistencies.
Charl Henning, from NPO Fields of Green, highlights how you can grow at home for private use, but cannot legally buy the seeds to do so:
“These kind of irregularities point to a lack of knowledge and insight on the lawmakers’ side. They need to seriously go back to the drawing board.… They can regulate medicine however they wish, but the rest of us should be free to grow, trade and engage with our God-given plant,” Henning said…
“The mere idea of — pointless and unnecessary — plant counting goes against the privacy judgment. We do not regulate cigarettes in this way, do we? Who comes to count our bottles of whisky?” Henning said.
We’re 100% in agreement, but please don’t give the government any ideas. If Bheki Cele had his way, the army would be breaking down doors to get at liquor cabinets across the country.
As things stand, the public has until October 9 to comment on the Bill, and you can do so here.
Parliament is also set to engage key stakeholders over the next few weeks, many of whom are just keen to see the commercial unlocking of cannabis and its potential.
It really is time the legislative framework is created that allows the industry to blossom.
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