The Gauteng government has turned to dagga for new jobs and economic opportunities.
Its Agriculture Department has issued an invitation to private groups to submit proposals to implement the Gauteng Cannabis Industrialisation programme.
“The objective of the programme is to unlock economic opportunities and job creation through cultivation and processing of hemp and cannabis at an industrial scale,” said the department’s proposal.
It said the potential partners should submit proposals on industrialisation plans that the provincial government is already activating.
Gauteng has effectively emerged as one of the provinces taking advantage of the national drive to turn dagga into a multibillion-rand industry.
The national strategy for the industrialisation and commercialisation published in 2021 estimated that the industry was worth R28 billion.
The Department of Agriculture, Land Reform and Rural Development developed the strategy after studying the major cannabis industries, including the US, Canada, Mexico and China.
It said the establishment of the cannabis industry will lead to diversification of the economy, “and thus increase economic growth, create jobs and alleviate poverty” in South Africa.
In his State of the Nation Address in February, President Cyril Ramaphosa said the cannabis sector has potential to bring over 130 000 new jobs.
“The hemp and cannabis sector has the potential to create more than 130 000 new jobs. We are therefore streamlining the regulatory processes so that the hemp and cannabis sector can thrive like it is in other countries such as Lesotho," Ramaphosa said.
"Our people in the Eastern Cape, KwaZulu-Natal and elsewhere are ready to farm with this age-old commodity and bring it to market in new and innovative forms.”
Cannabis products include its use as a recreational drug and a medication. The global medical cannabis market was worth billions of dollars.
The move to industrialise dagga followed the 2018 Constitutional Court ruling that decriminalised its use and cultivation in private spaces.
Bulelani Magwanishe, chairperson of the National Assembly portfolio committee of justice and correctional services, last year said the commercialisation of dagga should not only benefit multinational groups.
“We do not want to see the same situation that happened in the mining sector, where now we just see empty mines and no actual development in those communities,” he said.
“We however want South Africans to benefit from this. We want to see real projects starting from the ground, owned by South Africans. We can partner with multinationals, but first our people must benefit.”