Article – South Africa: Regulated Cannabis Could Affect Over 900K Small Growers

Since first talk of legislation prices have dropped by half threatening the livelihood of many small growers who rely on cannabis as their one and only revenue stream.


Ground Up report…..

No one knows with confidence how many small-scale cannabis farmers there are in South Africa, but the number is large: one organisation estimates 900,000. Millions of people probably depend on income from cannabis. Here in Pondoland, these growers have been cultivating the plant for over 200 years, with most of their harvest in more contemporary times bound for Cape Town townships and taxi ranks, as well as other South African cities.

Pondoland is among South Africa’s least economically developed regions, and in Nompethu’s village, as in many of the rural settlements that punctuate this landscape of rugged, verdant mountains and plunging valleys, dagga is the only cash crop in a subsistence economy.

There have been a number of failed efforts to eradicate the plant from the area. Nompethu recalled a period in the 1970s when SAPS officers would ride into the village on horseback (even today, the village is an arduous hour-long trek and a river crossing away from the nearest dirt road) to conduct arrests or confiscate and burn crops.

Around 1990, police drug squads switched tactics to an annual programme of spraying a herbicide called glyphosate from helicopters onto the crops.

As GroundUp previously reported, despite mounting evidence of the severe health risks and environmental damage caused by glyphosate, the spraying continued until as recently as 2016.

But while the Pondoland farmers doggedly resisted these previous attempts to erase their traditional livelihood (with the help of a small group of cannabis activists), many now fear a new threat: legalisation.

In a landmark decision in September 2018, South Africa’s Constitutional Court ruled that “the use, possession and cultivation” of cannabis in “private dwellings” was not illegal. The court gave Parliament 24 months from the date of the judgment to bring the ruling in line with South African laws, with a new bill expected to be released soon.

“I’m worried that now everyone will be able to plant their own dagga in their own homes, so we won’t be able to make money from selling what we are growing here,” said Thuliswa Gumbe, a 43-year-old neighbour of Nompethu’s, as she sat on the floor against the wall of her rondavel picking buds from a large pile of cannabis.

“Even at the end of last year, the buyers were very scarce, so prices were down,” she added.

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