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Hemp, a cousin albeit with no psychoactive properties, hopes that its own unfettered cultivation and potential might also soon be realised. The seeds, flowers, fibre and stalks can be used in multiple ways (see “Fibre crops” page).


When we began this project in 2003 we made a joke about including dagga in the table of contents with a note like “banned” or “removed” on the referenced page; we laughed and continued research on the other chapters. Sixteen years later we began work on the chapter with a quiet sense of irony, the (updated) page that you are looking at now.

The judgement confirmed by the Constitutional Court that cannabis was no longer illegal for private use unleashed a flood of interest and many business plans by companies and government departments (see “National strategy and government contact” heading) on how to capitalise on the development. Prohibition Partners estimates that global cannabis sales could be worth more than $101 billion (R1.8 trillion) by 2026 (Prohibition Partners, 2023), something on which South Africa could capitalise. The Department of Agriculture’s Cannabis Master Plan (2021) estimates the local sector to be worth R28-billion with a potential 25 000 employment opportunities. According to Agbiz’s Wandile Sihlobo, a potential cannabis value chain would/should focus on international trade (export) and domestic medicinal use, which would see accompanying economic activity and job creation particularly in the rural areas.

International business environment

Globally, the legal cannabis market was estimated to be worth approximately $50.3bn in 2021. It is forecast to increase by a massive compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 26.5%, to reach $417.2bn by 2030 (Insight Survey, 2022).

Find information here:


Some articles:


Local business environment

The policy framework for the legal production of cannabis may still take a long time to be clarified with the danger that benefits for farmers will not be realised (Mathibe, 2023Erasmus, 2019). Countries where production is legal currently supply the South African market for medicinal cannabis.

Progress, following the introduction of the Cannabis Master Plan, has largely stalled (Mathibe, 2023). The steps necessary to maximise the potential of the crop (Qobo & Sihlobo, 2019) remain:

  • The license fee should not be prohibitive.
  • A single authority should oversee the various licenses, be they for medical, industrial etc purposes.
  • A value chain approach should be taken where focus is not only primary production but goes from seed breeding to high value hemp industrial products. Indeed opportunities exist not only for smallholder farmers but also for agronomists, scientists, research and development. There can also be job creation in branding (see Werksmans, 2019), packaging, logistics and transport.


The Cannabis Development Council of SA (CDCSA) identified several other economic sectors which could be involved in a successful cannabis economy (includes hemp):

  • Animal feed
  • Food enrichment
  • Cosmetics
  • Foods
  • Supplements
  • Biodiesel
  • Beverages
  • Textiles
  • Bio-composites
  • Automotives
  • Packaging Nonwovens
  • Paper
  • Food fibre
  • Insulation
  • Construction
  • Biofuels
  • Animal bedding
  • Hydroponics
  • Nutraceuticals
  • Health teas
  • Pharmaceuticals


The provinces best suited climatically for possible cannabis cultivation are KwaZulu-Natal, Eastern Cape and Limpopo. High profit margins and ease of production are included as benefits of the crop (Mpofu, 2019). Apart from new employment opportunities and economic growth, a tax on the cannabis value chain would also be another income for government.

Controlled, international trade in cannabis and its products, and medicinal use locally is where the focus should be. Increased research will assist policy makers in evaluating the benefits and possible unintended consequences (Sihlobo, 2019).

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For the newcomer

A webinar held by Cliffe Dekker Hofmeyr (CDH) (2021, November) saw industry experts take the viewers through the new hemp licensing framework, its opportunities and potential pitfalls, and provided insight into cannabis as a viable agricultural commodity. The YouTube video is an excellent introduction to cannabis and its potential.

Further reference:


For guides on processing cannabis, contact role players (see later heading).

National strategy and government contact

  • The Presidency and National Treasury’s Operation Vulindlela (OV) is aimed at unlocking the cannabis industry in the country. The Department of Agriculture, Land Reform and Rural Development is the lead department, tasked with making the cannabis sector grow. According to the DALRRD in its Cannabis Master Plan, the industry is worth R28 billion and could create 25 000 work opportunities (DALRRD, 2021).
  • Every Premier/MEC wants his/her province to be “the hub” for cannabis or hemp but there are no SA government funded cannabis and hemp farms. The reasons for this are: (i) It is a high risk sector (ii); Only offer refunds/reimbursement (iii) Budgets are depleted (iv) Hemp and cannabis is still not considered a recognised crop (v) No start up funding, and (vi) Annual profits over R50m cannot be funded (Hemp 4 Life, 2024).
  • The South African Health Products Regulatory Authority (SAHPRA) regulates the issuing of Cannabis licences. SAHPRA has issued 102 cannabis licences across the country (Hemp 4 Life, 2024).


The Law on cannabis:

  • Only legal for private use at home
  • Cannot be bought or sold
  • Cannabis can be shared amongst friends but no money must exchange hands
  • Private and social cannabis clubs are not legal
  • Cannot use cannabis in public or around non-consenting adults


Government role players:


Further reference:

Role players

Further reference:

Find role players at the Cannabis Expo and at

Websites and publications

  • Visit the websites of role players and previous links on this page.




Some articles

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