How to legally get a cannabis, medical marijuana or hemp license in South Africa and other important information for those entering the green revolution. The booming interest in legal and not so legal cannabis products has created a local rush of both producers and consumers seeking licenses.

Following the Constitutional Court ruling in 2018 that cannabis be decriminalized in South Africa, have come many calls for government to create a system that can legally permit and regulate what is currently a very grey area. There however seems to be a bit of a bump in the road. The vast multitude of cannabis’ uses means that there are potentially hundreds, if not thousands, of products that would need to comply with a very long list of rules. Existing regulatory practices and policies now pose an administrative conundrum.

Cannabis licenses in South Africa are therefore slowly becoming a reality. But these are difficult to obtain. Here are the current options.

How to Get a Cannabis License

How to get a Cannabis License?

Getting an official Cannabis License is currently not easy. You will need millions of rand in the bank and few more million worth of grow facility. Acronyms like GMP, GAP, OTA and SOP are very relevant. These licenses are mostly for research, but some of the products may well already be finding their way to local and foreign markets. There are many organizations that offer assistance in this process. Be prepared for heavy paperwork and costs for what could only be a research permit. That may not allow you to practically sell or process your cannabis. Here’s the different cannabis, medical marijuana, traditional, personal, private club and hemp options.

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Personal Cannabis License

You do not need a license to grow and use your own Cannabis as it was decriminalized for private adult use in 2018. Any form of trade in the plant however remains strictly illegal according to a proposed new Cannabis bill. The bill recommends that “possession of up to 600g of dried cannabis per person, or a maximum of 1200g per household with two or more adults living in it. Public possession is pegged at a maximum of 60g of dried cannabis, but public consumption remains illegal.”

Police have been known to still continue arresting people for even small amounts of private growing or possession. There is still some risk involved, although an increasing amount of these cases are being fortunately be dismissed by the courts.

CBD License

CBD products generally do not need a license to sell. So long as the daily dosage is 20mg or less of CBD, then just about anything goes. From infused drinks and alcoholic beverages, to desserts and dog biscuits. The importing of CBD can be very difficult as SARS is not really geared towards letting these products into the country yet.

While local trade in CBD products are booming, it is important that you understand and double check what you are buying and selling. Have your products independently so that neither you nor your customers get scammed.

Medical Cannabis License

How to get a medical cannabis license in South Africa is practically impossible. A handful certainly exist and more are being issued. The process only currently caters for rare cases that can rely on the one dimensional aspect of isolate and synthetic cannabis pharmaceuticals. Many genuine medical users therefore have neither the time nor the motivation to deal with the bureaucracy. This is before even considering the significant personal and financial costs involved. The president had announced that Medical Cannabis will be officially legalized. But that was a long time ago with no word since.

Those who would like to grow and supply “medical cannabis” need to ask themselves one question. Do I have the means and years to invest in producing legal pharmaceutical substabces? Because that’s what it will take to even begin. This is well before you are able to produce something that can compete with existing over the counter pharmaceuticals.

Licenses tend to be very prohibitive in terms of being sold locally and may therefore need a reputable international buyer. If you are going to trade locally in products produced under your supplier’s license or permit, it is essential that you validate these documents and that they allow the sale of said products. As many only allow research purposes.

You can contact the South African Health Products Regulatory Authority to find out more.


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Hemp License

The president announced that hemp would be legalized. While the Hemp License regulations are yet to be announced by the respective government ministers. It is uncertain what these will be or if they will be that different from those for either Medical Cannabis or Hemp Research licenses. You can in the meantime obtain a hemp research permit from the Departments of Health or Agriculture under the Medicines Control Council.

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Cannabis Club License

Industrious companies and non-profits are using a loophole to trade by self-regulating. Private Cannabis Clubs and Grows are establishing as formal businesses and voluntarily pay all applicable taxes, etc. Private clubs and franchises are targeted towards recreational and medical’ish users. With many having coffee shop and restaurant vibes, while some are strictly online. Typical products include a selection of herb, concentrates and edibles.

These businesses do however carry some risk, as local police or neighbors may target indiscreet Cannabis Clubs. A few clubs have been bust and made local headlines. These clubs are now beginning to fight their cases in the Cape Town high court and hopefully help define this grey area.
Fields of Green for ALL offers assistance with how to Start your own Private Cannabis Club.

Traditional Cannabis License

Various traditional healer and cultural associations have frequently taken to the streets and courts. Seeking inclusion in the current informal and pending formal cannabis markets. Traditional and informal growers potentially have the most to lose, as a legal system may have too many barriers to entry. The traditional market therefore remains informal

A sudden burst of online traditional healers and physical retail franchises are an interesting development. Leading to some prominent arrests and court cases.

Police raided a prominent “traditional healer” franchise.

Is a cannabis license worth the effort?

A license is certainly a requirement for those who wish to enter a formal and legal cannabis market ASAP. Significant administration and capital costs however currently inhibit the local economic potential of this versatile plant. Many investors and land owners are therefore waiting a little longer for the processes to become optimized and hopefully less restrictive.

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Legal cannabis seeds in South Africa

Whether you are a personal or commercial grower, you will need high quality genetics to get you growing. Commercial growers in particular will need to meet their client’s needs and provide proof of the strain genetics. We strongly recommend that your consider local seed retailers and wholesalers. Here’s our seed buying guide.

Now that you know how to get either a Cannabis License, Hemp Licence, Personal Cannabis Licence or Traditional Cannabis License. You can Learn how to legally grow cannabis in South Africa here.

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