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growing marijuana in south africa

This business [illicit marijuana cultivation] is risky because you may never know when the police will come to your house and arrest you or go to destroy your plantation in the bush. So, when the [marijuana] trade is legalised, there will be no need to live in fear. At least you won’t panic when you see a police officer approaching you (Male marijuana grower, Community 1, 42 years old).

Yes, we [small scale illegal marijuana growers] will be able to compete with [large scale] farmers in other places. We [illegal marijuana farmers] are aware that there is a youth fund from the government that helps people to grow their business, but because the marijuana business is illegal, we can’t go for it. So, if marijuana cultivation is legalised, we [illegal marijuana growers] will feel comfortable to go and ask for help (Male marijuana grower, Community 2, 48 years old).

Key informants’ interviews

This study aimed to solicit the views of illegal marijuana growers and traders from two selected communities in the Eastern Cape Province of South Africa regarding the commercial legalisation of marijuana cultivation and trading to inform policy on the debate.

Sometimes I hide it [marijuana] in my luggage from here [Community 2] to Johannesburg, which is very risky. You [the transporter] are always scared when you see a policeman approaching your car, so if it [commercial marijuana cultivation] is legalised, we [illegal marijuana growers] won’t fear the police again and will also not be imprisoned for dealing in it [illegal marijuana business] (Female marijuana seller, Community 2, 49 years old).


Our [illegal marijuana growers and sellers] profits will be reduced. People risk and travel to this place just to buy it [marijuana] because this is the only place they know [that marijuana is grown illegally]. We [illegal marijuana growers] are, therefore, able to ask for high prices and make a lot of money, but if it [marijuana] is allowed to be cultivated everywhere, there will be no need for people to travel here. The [illegal marijuana] business won’t be profitable again (Female marijuana grower, Community 1, 38 years old).

In other countries where cannabis production is still illegal, such as Tanzania and Kenya , large amounts of the crop are still grown and exported. The economic incentives to legalize the already existing cannabis trade might mean that these countries’ regulations could also change .

Most of Africa’s climate is favorable to cannabis cultivation. The plant likes warm and sunny weather and does not do so well in the cold. Certain cannabis strains can also thrive in extreme heat . Some growing techniques such as dry farming allow farmers to grow the crop using mostly rainfall with minimal additional watering if the climate conditions are right. Drip irrigation is also a cheap and efficient way to water cannabis crops in Africa.

What Makes Africa Particularly Suited for Cannabis Cultivation?

African farmers have been growing cannabis in Africa for centuries . Nevertheless, consumption of the plant for either medical or recreational purposes is banned almost everywhere on the continent. Recently, however, the growing global demand for medical cannabis has caused several African countries to rethink their cannabis cultivation laws.

While most countries that allow cultivation also authorize the consumption of cannabis for medical purposes , Uganda and Rwanda are currently growing the plant strictly for exports.

Legal Cannabis Cultivation is Growing in Africa

While many areas of the United States are suitable for outdoor cannabis cultivation, most of Europe lies north of the 40th parallel and so does not receive enough sunlight during the winter. The plant cannot flower in the European summer either, since the long summer days keep the plant in the vegetative phase. Of course, European growers could grow their crops indoors using artificial lights, but this requires a tremendous amount of electricity, which is costly both in terms of money and environmental toll.

Growing marijuana in south africa

Due to the legal complications of this crop, it is difficult to farm and sell it legally. Birch says there are currently only three entry points available.

A cannabis market in South Africa?

Despite the legal hurdles, opportunities are increasing in cannabis farming, says Birch. “The challenge is, without legislation and without updated legislation and clarity on the ins and outs, there is a lot of grey area in what you can do.”

The practical side of growing cannabis

“You can only sell CBD products that are imported. You cannot buy or trade CBD, at the moment, internally from a legal perspective.”