N West ready to implement Cannabis Master Plan

The North West Department of Agriculture and Rural Development has reaffirmed its commitment to ensuring that the Cannabis Master Plan finds space in agriculture transformation in the province.

The department made the commitment during a recent hybrid Cannabis Lekgotla hosted by the provincial Agriculture and Rural Development, in collaboration with the North West University.

The Cannabis Legotla, attended by various cannabis advocacy groups, including the Cannabis Council of South Africa, Rastafarians formations, traditional leaders, academics, interest groups and individuals, and farmers, aimed to discuss the rollout of the National Cannabis Master Plan, and engage on the economic purpose of commercialisation and development of the herb.

The Cannabis Master Plan aims to provide a broad framework for the development and growth of the South African Cannabis industry in order to contribute to economic development, job creation, inclusive participation, rural development and poverty alleviation.

Speaking at the Lekgotla, North West Agriculture and Rural Development MEC, Desbo Mohono, said every avenue to create employment and fight poverty must be pursued, allowing businesses to grow, emerge and thrive, while also using the capabilities of the State to create a conducive environment for farmers.

“As government, we always appreciate the direct, considered and constructive approach that higher institutions of learning take in responding to the challenges facing our country.

“That is why we saw it fit as the Department of Agriculture and Rural Development to rope in the North West University, in particular, looking at their research output, which is amongst the best in the entire country,” Mohono said.

The MEC said the department will work with traditional leaders in order to forge a partnership and make sure that people in communal land are not left behind by “the train of this economic hub”.

“The department will also set aside a certain amount of money in making sure that we train our farmers fully about how to be experts in this field. This will be done through roping in experts who we have met in this Lekgotla,” Mohono explained.

North West University Principal and Vice Chancellor, Dr Mzubanzi Bismark Tyobeka, said the university is ready to contribute towards the implementation of the National Cannabis Master Plan to unlock the economic potential of rural communities.

“We must all work with the government to assist in the review of policy and regulatory framework that will fast-track the industrialisation of hemp and cannabis towards the realisation of economic investment and job creation,” Tyobeka said.

Establishment of provincial cannabis structure

During the breakaway sessions, participants recommended that the province establish a Provincial Cannabis Structure with clear powers, functions and reporting lines.

The participants also agreed that Action Plans and/or the adopted Programme of Action (POA) by Cannabis Lekgotla will be implemented.

They further developed terms of reference for the Provincial Cannabis Structure and that the structure will meet on a quarterly basis.

Head of Department, Thupi Mokhatla, said all the recommendations will be actioned by delegated institutions and stakeholders by the stipulated period.

Application process for hemp permits opened

Agriculture, Land Reform and Rural Development Minister, Thoko Didiza, announced the opening of the application process for hemp permits effectively on 29 October 2021.

This follows the declaration of HEMP as an agricultural crop under the Plant Improvement Act, no.53 of 1976. The declaration of HEMP as an agricultural crop now allows importation, exportation, cultivation, sale and research of hemp in South Africa.

This is a step towards the development of the Cannabis Master Plan.

Delivering the State of the Nation Address (SONA) in February this year, President Cyril Ramaphosa said government will review the policy and regulatory framework for industrial hemp and cannabis to realise the huge potential for investment and job creation.

“The hemp and cannabis sector has the potential to create more than 130 000 new jobs. We are therefore streamlining the regulatory processes so that the hemp and cannabis sector can thrive like it is in other countries such as Lesotho,” President Ramaphosa said at the time.

Source: South African Government News Agency