EAST LONDON - If the Eastern Cape plays its cards right to formalise its cannabis industry, the province could have thriving economy, provincial premier Oscar Mabuyane said on Thursday.
Mabuyane was speaking during a cannabis stakeholder engagement at the International Convention Centre in East London.
The stakeholder engagement was organised by the Eastern Cape department of rural development and agrarian reform to discuss issues such of legalisation which includes a license application process, market analysis and economic contribution to the provincial Gross Domestic Product (GDP).
Mabuyane said: "Our agenda is to create a thriving, legal cannabis economy in our province to create jobs for our people. This means we must want to focus on using cannabis for medicinal use to cure ailments such as asthma, we want to use it to manufacture products such as fiber that is used to build aeroplanes, we want to use it as clothing material, we want to use it to produce bio-fuels and other essentials products that are used globally."
He said a study by Interpol in 2004 placed South Africa in fourth place among the largest producers of cannabis, with most of it being produced in the Eastern Cape.
Mabuyane said the country was unable to extract economic benefits because cannabis was illegal until the Constitutional Court ruling in September last year which decriminalised it for private and personal use.
"However, for massive economic production the rules are still unclear. We must overcome this hurdle speedily so that legislation around cultivation can be clear to everyone concerned, particularly the police and communal farmers," said Mabuyane.
Rural Development and Agrarian Reform MEC Nomakhosazana Meth said: "As the province we must not be left behind as cannabis is brought into the spotlight as the world jumps to grab their drag on the spliff."
She said in countries that had decriminalised cannabis, it came in handy for ameliorating the pain associated with rheumatism, Parkinson’s disease, Alzheimer’s disease and cancer.
Meth said the City of Cape Town was freeing up land for medical cannabis with the hope of opening up untapped economic opportunities.
However, several stakeholders expressed concern about the financial requirements to obtain licenses, and playing in the export market space.
During discussions, another stakeholder was worried about the lack of government intervention to enhance productivity so emerging cannabis farmers could make profits.