Small farmers will benefit if dagga is legalised: SA Drug Policy Initiative

22 February 2019 - 09:59 By Nonkululeko Njilo
A policy group believes small-scale farmers will benefit from the legalisation of dagga.
A policy group believes small-scale farmers will benefit from the legalisation of dagga.
Image: Gallo Images/ IStock

The SA Drug Policy Initiative has welcomed finance minister Tito Mboweni’s statement that there needed to be a change in policy on the cannabis industry so it could become a potential source of revenue.

During his budget speech in Parliament on Wednesday, Mboweni spoke about enterprise development relating to agriculture and farming. He said he had received tips from people who wanted to see a change in the cannabis policy so that dagga could be decriminalised and regulated for export.

Mboweni’s response was to “pass the ball” to the leadership for further action, the policy group said.

The organisation said there were many civil society and business organisations working with government and those involved in policy development to craft legislation.

Dr Keith Scott, from the initiative, has been involved in private conversations with some senior leaders in government.

“Even though some senior government officials see the change in policy as important, they are not about to do it on an election year. They think it will lose them votes,” said Scott.

The organisation said public sentiment at the moment was that cannabis was an illicit drug which contributed to violent crimes and other social ills plaguing communities. 

International players and big business have an interest in coming into the country through licensing deals to make the most of decriminalisation. However, the “leadership” to whom the minister planned to “pass the ball” would need to act fast for South Africa to benefit from an international wave of investments in the cannabis industry, according to the organisation.

“There are many people whose economic survival may depend on this and their voices need to be heard,” it said.

Meanwhile, TB/HIV drug policy advocate Shaun Shelly said the commercialisation of cannabis would allow small farmers in the Eastern Cape to have an opportunity for economic inclusion.

These included the uMzimvubu  Farmers Support Network and the Cannabis Development Council of South Africa.