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Hawks clamp down on cannabis dispensaries

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Canapax, South Africa’s first chain of franchised cannabis shops faces collapse after its founder was raided and arrested, reports the Saturday Star. The Hawks said they aimed “to clamp down on the unlawful mushrooming of cannabis dispensaries around the country which are purporting to be operating legally in terms of the Traditional Health Practitioners Act”.

The report says Russell de Beer, founder of the Canapax chain of cannabis shops, was arrested at his headquarters in Brits in North West. He was in possession of at least 500kg of cannabis valued at R3m, as well as other equipment used for growing cannabis and extracting oil. Last week, de Beer appeared in the Brits Magistrates Court on a bail application, where proceedings were postponed to 22 November.

According to a statement by the Hawks, the de Beer bust was a step towards shutting down all Canapax dispensaries. “The investigation aims to clamp down on the unlawful mushrooming of cannabis dispensaries around the country which are purporting to be operating legally in terms of the Traditional Health Practitioners Act,” said Captain Tlangelani Rikhotso. “The suspect, who allegedly also sells franchises for cannabis dispensaries, is a major supplier of cannabis and related products in the country.”

The report says de Beer established the Canapax chain on the premise that prospective owners could take a short course with him to become “traditional healers”, and are then permitted by law to sell dagga to people for medicinal purposes. Each owner paid R25,000 to open a Canapax store, and more than 70 were opened around the country.

However, Canapax owners were being misled about the legality of their actions, according to a recent statement released by SAPS in conjunction with the SA Health Products Regulatory Authority. “The Traditional Health Practitioners Act does not create a mechanism to sell cannabis and cannabis-related products that are not exempted in terms of the Medicines Act,” read the statement.

Saturday Star report (subscription needed)

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