You can now buy cannabis drinks, oils and food in South Africa – this is what is legal

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An influx in the sale of cannabis products in South Africa has caused much confusion among consumers as to whether these products are legal, says Ferosa-Fae Hassan, an associate at law firm ENSAfrica.

According to Hassan, the market has been flooded by new cannabis beverages, oils, soaps, creams and even foods infused with cannabidiol (CBD) oils.

There have also been numerous exhibitions and festivals across the country demonstrating the health benefits of such goods.

“This new boost in cannabis products follows the September 2018 Constitutional Court judgement which held that certain provisions of the Drugs and Drug Trafficking Act and the Medicines and Related Substances Act are unconstitutional based on one’s right to privacy, said Hassan,

“The results of this judgement being that the use, possession or cultivation of cannabis in private for personal consumption was decriminalised.”

However, the court stressed that only the private use of cannabis is permitted. So, how are these ‘cannabis products’ available for sale in our local stores?

CBD

“While it is marijuana that is commonly associated with the word cannabis, the starting point is to understand that there are variants and derivatives of cannabis,” said Hassan.

“These variants and derivatives contain different levels of tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), the component in cannabis responsible for that cloud nine feeling.”

While the sale of THC and marijuana products remains illegal in South Africa, products containing CBD and hemp (which contains low levels of THC) are legally available for sale, said Hassan.

Such preparations containing CBD must comply with the standards published by the Minister of Health on 23 May 2019, namely:

  • It must contain a maximum daily dose of 20mg CBD with an accepted low risk claim or health claim which only refers to:
    • General health enhancement without any reference to specific diseases;
    • Health maintenance; or
    • Relief of minor symptoms (not related to a disease or disorder)
  • Alternatively, it must consist of processed products made from cannabis raw plant material and processed products where only the naturally occurring quantity of cannabinoids found in the source material are contained in the product and which contain no more than 0,001% of THC and no more than 0.0075% total CBD.

“The cannabis products we see available in stores therefore contain CBD or hemp, and should comply with the standards set by the minister of health,” said Hassan.

“Due to the low levels of THC in these products, they are unlikely to affect your mental faculties.”

Hassan added that whilst the sale of cannabis itself (whether recreational or medicinal) has been legalised in jurisdictions such as Canada, South Africa still has a long way to go.

“We are confident that as public policy in South Africa continues to evolve, and given the huge market potential associated with the cannabis industry, South Africa will make strides in this regard,” she said.

“It is anticipated that in the near future more legislation and guidelines will be passed, weeding out the old laws.  This will ensure adherence to legal standards and the general regulation of the cannabis industry.”

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