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South Africa – Publication of the Amendments to the Regulations – The Plant Improvement Act

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Published Date: February 11, 2022

The amendments to the Regulations issued in terms of the Plant Improvement Act No. 53 of 1976, were published in the Government Gazette dated 8 October 2021, by the Department of Agriculture, Land Reform and Rural Development.

In terms of the amended regulations, Cannabis sativa L, commonly known as ‘hemp’, has been declared an agricultural product, in terms of the Plant Improvement Act.  In terms of the Regulations ‘hemp’ is defined as, “low THC plants or parts of plants of Cannabis sativa L. cultivated for agricultural or industrial purposes, of which the leaves and flowering heads do not contain more than 0.2% THC”.

Following the publication of the amendments to the Regulations, as of 29 October 2021, and subject to acquiring a Hemp Permit from the Department of Agriculture, Land Reform and Rural Development (the Registrar of Plant Improvement), hemp may be imported, exported, cultivated and sold.  The Regulations expressly state that:

3(2) …, the following activities relating to hemp shall only be conducted by a person who is in possession of a valid Hemp permit issues by the Registrar of the Act:

  • import of plants or propagating material for breeding, research or cultivation;
  • propagating of plants by a breeder or researcher in relation to a breeding or research in programme to develop new or improved hemp varieties;
  • sale of hemp seed, seedlings, plant and cuttings;
  • cultivation of hemp for (i) seed production (ii) seedling production (iii) production of grain or material for industrial purposes;
  • cleaning and/or conditioning seed for cultivations; and
  • export of plants or propagating material for cultivation purposes.

The department has also stressed that although hemp and dagga/ marijuana are both species of cannabis, the commercial use of the latter remains prohibited in terms of South African law (in 2018 the Constitution Court decriminalized the personal use of cannabis by adults in private).  The differing regulatory laws are based on the different levels of concentration of the THC or the psychoactive compound in cannabis.  Hemp is mainly cultivated for agricultural and industrial purposes, and the fibre and oil from the plant are applied in the production of a wide variety of goods (from textiles to paint), and based on its low THC content, it cannot be used as a drug or narcotic.  On the other hand, the prohibited high THC-containing cannabis plant is generally used as a drug and for recreational purposes

Statement by the Agriculture, Land Reform and Rural Development: Minister Thoko Didiza on opening of application process for HEMP permits | South African Government (www.gov.za)

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