Since the Constitutional Court ruled in September 2018 that the personal use of dagga in a private space is not a criminal offence, interest in cannabis has grown exponentially in South Africa.
From dagga growing workshops, dagga conventions and even dagga growing garden kits, roleplayers in the industry are not letting the grass grow under their feet, moving at pace to ensure they can cash in, even though actual legislation still needs to be formulated to underpin the ruling by the highest court in the land.
On the medical marijuana side, the first medical cannabis dispensary in Africa was opened in Durban in May 2018, months before the Constitutional Court ruling.
Wesgro, the Official Tourism, Trade & Investment Promotion Agency for Cape Town and the Western Cape, believes the medical cannabis market, in particular, has the potential to boost the local economy through exports.
Wesgro is in talks with three big Canadian pharmaceutical companies interested in investing in the industry in the province. They are also lobbying national government to fast-track the issuing of licences.
The organisation’s Chief Research officer Cornelis van der Waal says globally $9.3 billion dollars are spent on cannabis and related products.
He says the Western Cape is a briliant agricultural manufacturing area, and is the heart of value added Agri-production in the country. The climate here is far better suited to growing dagga than Canada, which means the province can be a massive contributor to global exports, creating thousands of jobs.
Van der Waal says while at this stage the actual medicinal benefits derived from the use of cannabis is not yet proven, there are over 400 clinical trials currently taking place.
The University of the Free State’s department of pharmacology is for instance studying the benefits of cannabis in treating cancer, gangrene, Alzheimer’s, hypertension and pain.
As the use of the herb becomes more socially acceptable, and once regulatory obstacles and the government’s lack of enthusiasm can be overcome, Van der Waal says they have high hopes that medical marijuana will become SA, and the Western Cape’s, new growth industry.