Hohum hohum, hemp opportunities go up in smoke


Since former trade and industry minister Rob Davies more than a year ago told parliament that very little had been done to allow for the production and processing of hemp, a textile derivative of the marijuana plant, his successor has used the same words to sum up developments around hemp – “very little”.

That’s what Ebrahim Patel told parliament recently in answer to questions by the IFP MP Narend Singh.

The status quo he referred to, among other things, pertains to Apartheid-era legislation that prohibited the cultivation of hemp, which is stronger than cotton, for the risks it posed to South Africa’s textile industry at the time.

Because it could not be scientifically verified at the time whether or not hemp, like its cannabis cousin, had mind-bending properties, the National Party government must have thought it convenient to place a ban on the entire plant, lest the uninformed were to think they could get high smoking their clothes.

So where exactly do we now sit with hemp?

Exactly where we’ve always been, having to import it for the production of products like craft beer from countries like the US and Canada where cannabis is cultivated with the help of hydroponics compared to South Africa where it naturally flourishes with green abandon.

Be that as it may, the Department of Agriculture, Rural Development and Land Reform has indicated that much public and private deliberation and policy formation will be required before hemp can be commercialised in South Africa.

The Agricultural Research Council has already indicated that local hemp production, used for anything from fabric for tough clothing to medicine that drives down blood pressure, could unlock significant economic opportunities for South Africa, specifically in poverty-stricken rural areas.

Talk about an opportunity going up in smoke.


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