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Should South Africa explore the cannabis market?

Underutilised land close to the size of the Kruger National Park could be put into full production.

Increasing acknowledgement that agriculture should be among the key sectors driving the economy and job creation in South Africa has leaned mainly on potential expansion in hectares of labour-intensive and globally sought-after horticultural products as well as traditional grains and oilseeds.

The provinces that could assist in realising this goal are KwaZulu-Natal, the Eastern Cape and Limpopo. There is an estimated 1.6 million to 1.8 million hectares of underutilised land in these provinces that could be put into full production. (The Kruger Park is actually a bit larger, at nearly two million hectares.)

In addition to the aforementioned crops, the changing perceptions about cannabis around the globe – and its growing value – raise a question of whether South Africa should put a concerted effort into research on this crop so that policymakers can better assess if its production benefits could be balanced by measures to mitigate unintended consequences.

Controlled trade and medicinal use

A recent Constitutional Court ruling decriminalised the private use of cannabis in South Africa, but the conditions and boundaries still need to be considered and legislated. Furthermore, the decriminalisation for private use might not be where the commercial value lies. The focus should rather be on exploring the possible benefits for the country through the controlled international trade in cannabis and its products, and also medicinal-use purposes in the domestic market.

Potential export markets include the US, Canada and China, as some regions within these countries have decriminalised cannabis. In the state of California in the US, the value of the cannabis industry was estimated at $3 billion in 2017. Colorado and Florida were valued at more than $1 billion each.

In the same year, Canada spent over $5 billion on cannabis for medical and non-medical purposes.

In China – which grows nearly half the world’s legal hemp – sales of textile fibre made from the plant’s stalk totalled $1.2 billion in 2017.

South Africa already trades agricultural commodities with these countries. Their increasing desire for cannabis and its product is thus interesting. It would offer extra value if South Africa was to follow the route of producing the crop for international trade and medicinal use within a clearly regulated environment.

Research first

I am not arguing for any particular policy position regarding cannabis, but rather for increased research that would assist policymakers in evaluating the benefits, and possible unintended consequences, of growing and trading cannabis. The research should take stock of the changing perceptions surrounding this crop globally, as week as its growing demand and commercial value.

In the coming years, depending on whether South Africa’s policy position on cannabis follows global developments, the ideal provinces would be Eastern Cape, KwaZulu-Natal and Limpopo due to favourable climatic conditions.

Wandile Sihlobo is an agricultural economist and head of research at Agbiz.

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We should, but let’s just remember that while marijuana is legal in for example Canada, California, Colarado – they do not permit imports at all.

On the positive side, we already have ten million skilled growers, so getting going will be easy.

There is already a goldrush going on with companies with big plans. Controlled environment growth seems to be a hot topic – higher price and also makes for less theft. So aquaponics suppliers will do well, like the tunnel and plant suppliers to the blueberry rush

Seems logical although is that the only thing that can be grown in those areas? If not then the gov should prioritise getting that land into productive use regardless of the product really. If we are going to fully legalise it then formalizing the production then makes a lot of sense and should be supported, we need all the wins we can get right now.

Anyone know the going rate per hectare for land around the Port St Johns area? Asking for a friend.

The knowledge of both the medical and non medical properties have been known for 100s of years, just like the electric and hydro powered vehicle.

It’s simple the control of big business and government that have kept it out of the public reach so that the big businesses benefit and keep control of their industries.

You can also include crypto currencies and other drugs which will at some point in time become both legal and safe to use.

South Africa has a problem and that is “entitlement”, some how we all believe or have been made to believe that the world owes us for our own historical misfortunes and poor rule.

In order to make this work we would need much more than sheer policy.

Of course we should… The gains we could make in our textile, energy, medical and other sectors would be massive. Even if we can’t export the fact that we would be importing less would be huge. Investment would come as well.
This is obviously a no brainer… which is lucky because the powers that be don’t seem to have any brains

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