Cannabis and Hemp Phakisa Action Lab
The Cannabis and Hemp sector is one of fourteen priority sectors that have been defined in government’s Country Investment Strategy as holding significant potential to secure investment, job creation and support for sustainable rural livelihoods, in recognition of people’s rights.
Given the need for more urgent implementation, under the auspices of the Department of Agriculture Land Reform and Rural Development (DALRRD) together with the Presidency, government convened a Phakisa Action Lab from 19 to 23 June 2023.
The Phakisa brought together more than 100 participants representing national and provincial government, business, labour, communities, traditional leaders, Rastafari leaders, scientists, legal experts, and other key stakeholders.
The purpose of the Phakisa was to secure much-needed policy coherence and agreement on a stronger programme of well-defined, time-bound and assigned activities across multiple government departments working in close collaboration with all stakeholders.
In his letter to the Phakisa participants, President Ramaphosa indicated his trust in the process:
“I am confident that the collaborative commitment to work together which characterises our society, will find expression in the Hemp and Cannabis Phakisa, leading to immediate short term regulatory reform, the adoption of a set of foundational policy principles to achieve longer term legislative reform and a detailed plan to achieve inclusive growth and investment.”
The Phakisa has secured important resolutions and actions in this regard.
Participants have collectively agreed on the regulatory reforms required to better enable the development of the hemp and cannabis sector. These reforms will unlock the potential of cannabis in African traditional medicine; pharmaceutical and complementary medicines; human and animal ingestion; and multiple industrial applications.
The regulatory reforms agreed to in the Phakisa include reviewing the schedules to the Medicines Act to further enable cannabis grown for non-medicinal uses, including industrial purposes. In other words, the South African Health Products Regulatory Authority (SAHPRA) will focus on cannabis grown for medicinal purposes and enable other government departments to regulate cannabis grown for industrial purposes.
The Phakisa further resolved to explore mechanisms to fast-track the removal of cannabis from the Drugs Act. This will be a historic achievement through which the cultivation of non-medicinal cannabis will be legal under the terms and conditions of the Plant Improvement Act, which falls under DALRRD.
The supply of adult-use cannabis to consumers is not yet legal. A science-based and human rights approach to how and when to do this, especially concerning the need to include Indigenous farmers, will be the subject of a further exploratory process involving all stakeholders. This will determine an optimal regulated adult-use market, based on a set of foundational policy principles, taking into full consideration the imperative to respect rights and lower societal and industry harms occurring in the existing illicit cannabis market. This process will ultimately inform government’s approach to encouraging the successful migration of existing participants from the illicit to the licit cannabis economy.
Tony Ehrenreich expressed his support for the outcomes by stating:
“Labour supports these Phakisa outcomes as it will speed up the industrialisation of the industry which will lead to much-needed job creation and decent work.”
In addition, the Phakisa resolved to reinforce previous instructions to all South African Police Services (SAPS) members to respect the privacy rights of cannabis cultivators and users, and to ensure the least intrusive measures are used when securing an accused’s court attendance. Further measures will be taken to ensure that SAPS treats cultivators, users and dealers of cannabis with respect for their constitutional rights.
Nhlanhla Ndlovu, a community representative supporting the Cannabis and Hemp Master Plan development within the National Economic Development and Labour Council (NEDLAC) also expressed his satisfaction with the outcomes by stating:
“The Phakisa has started the process of liberating the cannabis plant. This freeing of the plant will go a long way in improving the relationship of the state with communities. In particular, the traditional communities, the Rastafari communities, the responsible adult users, the traditional healers and their patients.”
Ras Gareth Prince, an activist in the cannabis sector, echoed support for the Phakisa process:
“The Phakisa showed what we can accomplish if we work together in a spirit of recognition and reconciliation. We remain committed to restoring the dignity and economic culture of our community and the rest of society in a renewable and reliable manner. We trust that the government will work with us more progressively and we will hold them to the resolutions of the Phakisa.”
Agreement was also reached in the Phakisa for a detailed set of measures, supported by the regulatory reform process, to better enable investment in the sector. This is important as previously constrained investment in the primary agricultural sector has not taken sufficient account of final product market development and demand.
The detailed programme of action will therefore include
- Scaling up support for the existing catalytic projects put in place by the Department of Science and Innovation (DSI) and the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR) to support and enable private sector investment in product aggregation, processing, and manufacturing technology for end-user demand.
- Securing an optimal financing framework which enables private sector investment with some public sector financing support, targeted at Black farmers and SME entrants in the emerging market and where appropriate, assisting to de-risk private sector investment.
- Deploying a set of pragmatic interventions concerning investment promotion, export support and standards and conformity assessment.
- Working with all provinces to further the activities currently underway and ensure alignment across government.
Business representative, Ayanda Bam praised the action of social partners:
“The Phakisa created a platform for the collaboration and co-ordination that has long been missing from the hemp and cannabis sector development and is evidence that when commitments are backed by action, it is possible to progress. What we need now is accountability to ensure that that progress translates to tangible outcomes. Business is committed to being a trusted partner and contributor to prosperity, innovation, and resilient livelihoods.”
The General Secretary of CONTRELESA, HRH Zolani Mkiva was also pleased with the progress made in the Phakisa, saying:
“We realise the need for progress in unlocking the potential embedded in the cannabis sector and the Phakisa is a critical step forward in our efforts to harness the unexplored sacred natural resources of our country.”
The Phakisa Action Lab has produced a solid and constitutional foundation for more urgent implementation of the Cannabis Master Plan. Most importantly, a programme of detailed, assigned and time-bound activities has been agreed on, with stronger implementing institutional arrangements across National and Provincial government departments and in collaboration with business, labour, communities, traditional leaders, Rastafari leaders, scientists and legal experts.
Media enquiries: Vincent Magwenya, Spokesperson to President Ramaphosa – +27 82 835 6315 or Reggie Ngcobo,Department of Agriculture, Land Reform and Rural Devleopment – +27 83 625 3446