The South African Health Products Regulatory Authority (SAHPRA) has clarified that it has not issued the first commercial licence for the cultivation of cannabis for all purposes but has rather issued licenses for the cultivation of cannabis solely for medicinal and research purposes, contrary to a statement made on Cape Talk Radio.
In an interview between a Cape Talk Radio host and Leslie Zetler, who is the owner of Polkadraai Strawberry Farm in Stellenbosch, Western Cape, it was stated that the farm was the first to receive a licence to grow cannabis for commercial purposes. The current legislation does not permit SAHPRA to issue licenses for the cultivation of cannabis for non-medicinal commercial purposes including for use in food, as suggested by Cape Talk Radio.
Strict growing conditions
SAHPRA has to date issued five positive recommendations for the granting of licences to cultivate cannabis for medicinal use only. Polkadraai Strawberry Farm is one of the five applicants to receive a positive recommendation in this regard.
The process to obtain a licence from SAHPRA to cultivate cannabis for medicinal purposes is a rigorous one. There needs to be standardisation of the cannabis cultivars and assurance that crops can be grown under conditions of strict security. The cultivation of cannabis for medicinal purposes requires strict control as South Africa is a signatory to international treaties that prohibit the production and supply of narcotic and psychotropic drugs, including the Single Convention on Narcotic Drugs of 1961.
SAHPRA recognises that there is an ongoing global dialogue around the use of cannabis for both medicinal and non-medicinal purposes. In South Africa, the regulation of current and possible future uses of cannabis involves many stakeholders, including SAHPRA and the Departments of Health, Agriculture, Trade and Industry, the South African Police Service, and the Legislatures. Professor Helen Rees, SAHPRA Board chairperson said in response to the Cape Talk interview that ‘SAHPRA is concerned about the inaccuracies of such narratives because they confuse the public in what is a complex legal and policy space. Accurate reporting is essential to allow the public to meaningfully participate in this debate.’