South Africa: Cannabis Trading Still Illegal

The South African Police Service (SAPS) has warned that the establishment of illegal dispensaries/outlets, online sites and social media platforms for marketing and selling cannabis and related products to the public remains illegal.

This excludes instances permitted by the Medicines and Related Substances Act.

The warning comes after the SAPS established that the illegal substances, sold by businesses operating legally in terms of the Traditional Health Practitioners Act, are also being sold to the public as franchises authorised to deal in cannabis and cannabis-related products.

In terms of the Traditional Health Practitioners Act, "traditional medicine" is an object or substance used in traditional health practice for the diagnosis, treatment or prevention of a physical or mental illness for any curative or therapeutic purpose.

This includes the maintenance or restoration of physical or mental health or well-being in human beings but does not include a dependence-producing or dangerous substance or drug.

The SAPS and the South African Health Products Regulatory Authority (SAHPRA) made the warning in a statement issued on Tuesday.

"Only an adult person may use, possess or cultivate cannabis in private for his or her personal consumption in private. The use, including smoking, of cannabis in public or in the presence of children or in the presence of non-consenting adult persons is not allowed," they said in the joint statement.

"The use or possession of cannabis in private other than by an adult for his or her personal consumption is also not permitted."

Dealing in cannabis, the state organs said, remains a serious criminal offence in terms of the Drugs and Drug Trafficking Act.

"Cannabis and tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) are currently listed as Schedule 7 substances in terms of the Medicines and Related Substances Act, except when present in processed hemp fibre and products containing not more than 0.1% of THC in a form not suitable for ingestion, smoking or inhaling purposes; or when present in processed products made from cannabis seed containing not more than 0.001% of THC; or when used for medicinal purposes," read the statement.

Cannabidiol (CBD) is listed as a Schedule 4 substance. Certain CBD-containing preparations have been excluded from the operation of the Schedules by the Minister of Health for a time-limited period.

"Any person who imports or manufactures a CBD-containing medicine in accordance with the exclusion notice must still be in possession of a licence issued in terms of section 22C(1)(b) of the Medicines Act and comply with any relevant standards, including current Good Manufacturing Practice (cGMP) standards. Such persons must be able to present verified assessment by an accredited laboratory of the CBD and/or THC content of any product or medicine when requested," reads the statement.

The SAPS said it will act against businesses and individuals illegally trading the products.

"Members of the public are encouraged to download the MySAPSApp on any iPhone or android to have easy access to the police to, among others, provide tip-offs or one may to report any information relating to the sale of cannabis to the SAPS through the SAPS Crime Stop number 086 00 10111. Callers may remain anonymous and all information will be treated in the strictest confidence," they said.

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