SAHPRA warning: Still a ‘serious offence’ to deal in cannabis

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South Africa’s medicines regulator and the police have warned the public that marketing and selling cannabis products remains illegal, except for specific conditions permitted under the Medicines and Related Substances Act. According to a Business Day report, businesses are cashing in on consumer demand for medical cannabis products, bolstered by a Constitutional Court ruling in 2018 that effectively allows adults to possess or cultivate cannabis for their own use in private.

The SA Health Products Regulatory Authority (Sahpra) and the SA Police Service (SAPS) has issued a joint statement warning that using cannabis in public remained illegal, and that dealing in cannabis remains a serious offence in terms of the Drugs and Drug Trafficking Act. They also drew attention to the current regulatory framework for medicinal cannabis products, which makes a distinction between products with low concentrations of the key active ingredients in cannabis and those with higher levels of cannabidiol (CBD) and tetrahydrocannabinol (THC).

The report says products containing less than 20mg of CBD per day are currently exempted from the Medicine Act’s requirement that they be registered as a medicine with Sahpra before they can be marketed or sold in South Africa, in line with an exclusion notice published by the minister of health in May.

A report in The Star quotes Unisa criminology professor Anni Hesselink saying that SA is the largest market for illicit drugs in sub-Saharan Africa and serves as a trans-shipment point for drugs, including cannabis, to Europe. SAPS said that some illegal businesses were also being sold as franchises, while purporting to be operating legally in terms of the Traditional Health Practitioners Act. The SAPS said it was mandated to act, and would do so, not only against businesses that sold cannabis illegally, but against the customers who bought these products.

Business Day report

The Star report (subscription needed)

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