Months after South Africa legalised the private cultivation and consumption of marijuana, locally referred to as dagga, the country has gone ahead to open its first legal cannabis store in the capital, Cape Town.
The opening of the Goodleaf store on Buitenkant Street, Cape Town has brought smiles to the faces of marijuana users in the country as the store plans to include legal cannabidiol (CBD) products in its dagga-based offerings.
The commercial CBD store is opening, interestingly, across the road from Cape Town Central police station and it is courtesy of AIM3 Ventures Inc. and its transaction target Southern Sun Pharma, a Canadian registered company which is a multi-license holder with a dedicated focus on Africa.
“We’re excited about what Goodleaf brings to the [local] market. The flagship Goodleaf store will offer consumers a well-curated and unique experience in an exclusive downtown space. This store will be the first of a number of premium cannabis stores that we intend to open in high-end retail locations across South Africa,” said Jonni Katz, Head of Brand and Retail for Southern Sun Pharma.
The CBD store comes on the back of the decision by the SA Health Products Regulatory Authority (Sahpra) to delete CBD from a list of scheduled harmful substances that includes the likes of cocaine and heroin. CBD is a non-addictive extract of the cannabis plant that doesn’t cause high, unlike the THC.
According to the Sunday Times, Sahpra further agreed that CBD was no longer a scheduled drug, which means it can be sold without a doctor’s prescription.
The decision implies that a wide range of CBD products already widely available abroad can be sold legally in South Africa. THC products may still not be sold, even though a constitutional court ruled last year that the drug is now legal for private use.
Marijuana, in several parts of the world, is being used to alleviate suffering from cancer, HIV and AIDS, and cancer. It, nevertheless, remains a controversial drug while critics fear that relaxing laws on its use can lead to drug abuse and other crime-related activities.
Globally, more and more states, particularly in America, are passing laws to allow the sale of marijuana in some form. In Africa, some countries are beginning to tap into the profitable industry following the global rise in the use of cannabis- roughly 16 per cent in the decade ending 2016, according to the recent United Nations Office on Drug and Crime (UNODC) drug report.
Following the extent of legalization observed in Europe and the Americas, in May 2018, Zimbabwe legalized growing marijuana for medicinal and research purposes, becoming the second country after Lesotho to do so. Lesotho had, in 2017, become the continent’s first country to offer legal licenses to grow marijuana.
As entrepreneurs, businessmen, including celebrities across the globe flock into the industry to make some cash, experts say the South African market is one to watch in the global cannabis landscape.
Katz, the CEO of Goodleaf, said the company has plans to open multiple stores, including in several prominent shopping malls.
“The interest is huge and this market is very big,” said Katz, adding that a regulated CBD market would ensure quality control of available products.
In South Africa, people had over the years been organizing marches on the streets of Cape Town asking for drug laws to be amended in order to reap the medicinal and recreational benefits of cannabis.
In March 2017, a court in the Western Cape region ruled that a ban on cannabis use by adults at home was unconstitutional but officials, including the police, health and trade ministers were against that, arguing that there was “objective proof of the harmful effects of cannabis.”
Last September’s ruling that private use of marijuana is not a criminal offence, however, does not cover the use of drugs in public places, meaning that dealing in marijuana, selling it to others or smoking it outside the confines of one’s home still remains an illegal practice.