The Department of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries (DAFF) has formally requested the departments of health and justice to consider the necessary legislative amendments to allow the commercialisation of hemp in South Africa.
This was revealed in Minister of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries Senzeni Zokwana's answer to a written parliamentary question from IFP chief whip Narend Singh.
Singh said Zokwana's commitment was laudable.
"The IFP believes that the socio-economic benefits of the commercialisation of hemp farming in the country have vast economic and employment potential, and must therefore be unpacked, studied and piloted by the relevant departments and phased into our economy as soon as possible," Singh said in a statement.
Singh also asked Zokwana whether he engaged with the minister of health and trade and industry about the viability of decriminalising and commercialising the growth and cultivation of hemp farming in South Africa.
"The Department of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries is leading the inter-departmental team that is developing a new regulatory framework for hemp," Zokwana answered.
The team is made up of the following departments: DAFF, Health, Trade and Industry, Environmental Affairs, Justice and Constitutional Development as well as the South African Police Services, and include state-owned entities (SOEs) like the Agricultural Research Council (ARC) and the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR).
"The engagements between DAFF and other departments as well as SOEs take place through this platform. Much progress had been made in terms of dealing with technical matters regarding production of hemp, research and technology development, commercial feasibility and other related matters," said Zokwana.
He added that DAFF and the Department of Health were developing guidelines for regulating the cultivation and manufacturing of hemp and hemp products.
Currently, legislation places the mandate for regulating hemp with the Department of Health in terms of the Medicines and Related Substances Act of 1965 as well as the Department of Justice and Constitutional Development in terms of the Drugs and Drugs Trafficking Act of 1992.
"As a result of the ongoing engagements amongst the different departments, DAFF has already formally requested the departments of health and justice and constitutional development to consider the necessary legislative amendments to allow the commercialisation of hemp in South Africa. DAFF awaits a response from these departments."
Singh said he was waiting for the outcome of the inter-departmental team that was developing a new regulatory framework and would further request clarity on the technical matters regarding the production of hemp, research and technology development, commercial feasibility and other related matters.
Hemp is the industrial product of the cannabis plant. While it has many uses, it contains a negligible amount THC, the active substance in dagga.