Mboweni says ‘legalize it!’ as he dares cops to arrest him for growing dagga

Tito Mboweni, South African Minister of Finance, delivers his 2019 Mid-Term Budget Statement in the South African Parliament in Cape Town, on October 30, 2019. / AFP / RODGER BOSCH

The finance minister is clearly backing reforms around the laws restricting the cannabis industry in SA.

In a series of tweets on Sunday, Finance Minister Tito Mboweni uploaded photos of dagga plants growing on his farm in Limpopo, which he explained were occurring there naturally.

The law around cannabis in South Africa is complex, after the Constitutional Court declared that private growth and use should be protected by rights to privacy.

However, the plant remains a controlled substance according to the statute books. Many commentators have pointed out that a legal cannabis industry could contribute significantly to economic growth in South Africa, with detractors arguing that the plant is a “gateway drug” to more serious drug abuse.

Mboweni has sided with those calling for the formalisation of the industry, as it will result in an improved tax base.

Mboweni is known for his openness and outspokenness on Twitter, and is often dubbed “Tweeto” as a result.

The first Cannabis Expo was held at Menlyn in Pretoria last year with just 50 exhibitors. A year later the expo, which doubled as a convention with speakers and delegates, boasted 200 exhibitors at the Sandton Convention Centre.

Judging from the array of entrepreneurs at the event from across the trade spectrum, a potential boom for the industry was evident.

Speakers and exhibitors at the event repeated the claim that South Africa was on the verge of a cannabis industry boom, if only government would provide a legislative and regulatory framework that would open up the industry.

Law firm Schindlers, which has been involved in landmark court battles towards the legalisation of cannabis in South Africa, was hopeful that, come September next year, parliament would have made progress in terms of addressing the regulation gaps which could address the growing call for a more cannabis-friendly state.

But the firm’s Andrew Lawrie said it was not simply a matter of declassifying dagga as a schedule 7 drug.

“The scheduling of a drug has wide-reaching consequences for how it is governed … how it is approved and what the requirements will be. You have to consider every effect that it will have. And it links up to about three different Acts,” he said.

“The issue at the moment is that we are trying to fit cannabis into pre-existing laws. It is such a unique product, it’s recreational, it’s medicinal and it’s a crop. It touches on so many different territories. The only real idea for it is to have its own set of regulations. You can’t keep on trying to fit it into an existing framework because existing laws were designed while it was illegal.”

(Compiled by Charles. Background reporting, Simnikiwe Hltshaneni)

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