On 28 September 2021 North West MEC Desbo Mohono hosted a webinar on how the national Department of Agriculture, Land Reform and Rural Development’s cannabis master plan could be implemented in the province.
The department recently presented the cannabis master plan to parliament, which details how cannabis could be incorporated into South Africa’s business sector as part of the government’s ongoing drive towards legislation and commercialisation. According to the plan, the cannabis industry is worth an estimated R28 billion, and could potentially create up to 25 000 jobs and help to attract foreign investment.
Two North-West University (NWU) academics share their thoughts on the process of implementing the cannabis master plan in the North West Province and in South Africa.
Dr Simon Letsoalo, an associate professor in agricultural economics, says the plan is in line with international trends.
“However, it has to be noted that perceptions on cannabis are negative and discussions on it are still uncomfortable, especially since the product has been illegal until recently*, with users being arrested and sentenced previously.”.
He says the general understanding is that cannabis is smoked by “deviant” characters, resulting in bad behaviour and hallucinations.
“Nonetheless, since several contemporary studies point to the alternative diversified beneficial use of cannabis other than the abhorrent smoking practise, opinions seem to be changing.
“Cannabis is now strongly purported to be an alternative low cost and readily available medicinal remedy to a variety of alignments. If these peer-reviewed studies are to go by, the incorporation of cannabis in the South Africa business sector as part of government ongoing drive towards commercialisation makes a lot of sense,” says Dr Letsoalo.
On the other hand, Prof Leepile Sehularo, an associate professor at the School of Nursing, says as a mental health care practitioner he does not support the growth and development of the cannabis sector in the North West Province.
“My personal experience is that the majority of mental health care users who are admitted at mental health care institutions are diagnosed with cannabis-related disorders, including brief psychotic disorders and cannabis-induced psychosis and anxiety.”
He says that statistically speaking, at least 20 out of 30 admitted mental health care users are diagnosed with cannabis-related disorders, with a high percentage of these users relapsing.
“In my opinion, the growth and development of the cannabis sector in North West will increase the numbers of cannabis users in the province,” adds Prof Sehularo.
*Cannabis was legalised for personal use in South Africa in 2018.