South Africa Eyes Hemp Profits: Justice Committee Concludes Hearings on Expansive Cannabis Bill

  • The Portfolio Committee on Justice and Correctional Services in South Africa has concluded public hearings on proposed amendments to the Cannabis for Private Purposes Bill, which aim to expand the bill’s scope to include provisions for the commercialization of hemp.
  • Several stakeholders voiced concerns about continued arrests for cannabis possession, inadequacy of the bill in regulating the cannabis industry and taxation, and access to medicinal cannabis. There were also discussions about the term “hemp” versus “industrial cannabis”.
  • Despite the debates and concerns, the Department of Justice and Correctional Services is scheduled to respond to the issues raised next week, after which the committee will start deliberations on the bill.

CAPE TOWN — The Portfolio Committee on Justice and Correctional Services in South Africa has completed two days of public hearings regarding amendments to the Cannabis for Private Purposes Bill. The proposed changes intend to broaden the scope of the bill, embracing provisions related to the commercialisation of hemp, according to Committee Chairperson Mr Bulelani Magwanishe.

Over the course of the hearings, the committee engaged with a variety of stakeholders, such as Afristar, Fields of Green for All, Doctors for Life, the Cannabis Action Group, the Marijuana Board, Cosatu, the Cannabis Trade Association, and the Rastafi National Council of South Africa.

A common thread throughout the hearings was the ongoing concern about continued arrests for cannabis possession. Multiple presenters pressed for an immediate halt to such arrests, arguing that the original intent of the bill was to address private use of cannabis, not its industrial or commercial exploitation.

Some speakers disputed the use of the term “hemp”, arguing that it is merely cannabis employed for industrial purposes and should be referred to as “industrial cannabis”.

Critics also claimed the bill falls short in regulating the burgeoning cannabis industry, taxation, and access to medicinal cannabis. The existing draft risks sustaining the current inequalities and injustices within the criminal justice system, as it overlooks the ramifications of prior criminalisation policies on communities most affected by the drug policy.

The issue of medicinal cannabis use was also hotly debated. Some presenters insisted that its use has not been approved in South Africa due to potential interference with other medications. Cases were cited where patients undergoing treatments for cancer and neurological diseases may face such risks.

Chairperson Magwanishe expressed appreciation to all presenters, stressing the importance of diverse viewpoints in enhancing democracy. The Department of Justice and Correctional Services is scheduled to respond to the concerns raised and inputs made next Friday. Following this, the committee is set to begin deliberations on the bill.

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