Rural communities could use ‘traditional healer’ route in cannabis industry

Rural communities that want to enter the cannabis industry to earn a living could enter the market through the traditional healer route, according to a legal expert in the sector. Picture: Pexels

Rural communities that want to enter the cannabis industry to earn a living could enter the market through the traditional healer route, according to a legal expert in the sector. Picture: Pexels

Published Oct 25, 2023


Rural residents across the country could now have an entrance point into the cannabis and hemp industries through the traditional healer route, in hopes of creating a sustainable source of income for themselves, a legal expert in the cannabis sector said.

Joshua Swart, the compliance officer at Grow One Africa, a national advocacy group that has been pushing for the legalisation of the cannabis industry, spoke to IOL about some of the ways people can benefit from a controlled cannabis and hemp sector.

Given the tight budgets that residents in these rural communities have for starting a business venture, the traditional healer route may be their best option, Swart explained.

What gives the opportunity an even bigger chance of success is the new directive issued by the South African Police Service (SAPS) last month, which said police would be refraining from arrests involving cannabis.

So how exactly can rural residents benefit?

The industry is divided into two parts, namely medical cannabis and hemp.

Hemp cultivation does not involve the psychoactive agent known as THC and is more for commercial and industrial use, like clothing and food products.

Medical cannabis, on the other hand, is still considered illegal to sell in commercial quantities, but traditional healers are allowed to sell small quantities.

“The first option that rural communities have is the traditional healer route. This is where small-scale farmers growing fifty to a thousand plants will be able to feed them into the traditional healer distribution channel.

“Interestingly enough, the SAPS issued a new directive recently where they define what privacy is. And what it basically says is that traditional healers are able to dispense small amounts of medicinal cannabis.

“Although the police are not the ones writing the law, they have kind of opened up an avenue by easing up the restrictions, especially around traditional healers," Swart said.

The second option rural communities may have will be if the government establishes a depot of sorts within rural cannabis farming communities, the cannabis legal expert said.

Small-scale farmers can sell their harvest to these depots, who then export it to countries where it is legal to trade and consume.

This also allows the government to tax farmers and establish regulations for the industry, Swart added.

SAPS spokesperson Atlende Mathe said cannabis dispensed by a traditional, cultural, or religious healer in small quantities is privately and personally possessed.

“In short, possession, use, and cultivation of cannabis by an adult for personal consumption, in private, is permitted. In contrast, dealing in cannabis is not permitted; therefore, commercialisation of cannabis is still not legal in South Africa,” the SAPS said.

Earlier this month, the KwaZulu-Natal government said there is over R100 billion in value to unlock in the rural cannabis farming sector and, with the help of export corridors, establish the country as a major player in the medical cannabis industry.

Super Zuma, the member of the executive council (MEC) for the Department of Agriculture and Rural Development, said 644 hemp and cannabis farmers who are on the database will be receiving their permits to grow.

The MEC for Economic Development, Tourism, and Environmental Affairs, Siboniso Duma said the province has numerous corridors to market and sell the products, as well as funding to assist farmers.

“We have government funding agencies such as KZN Growth Fund, Ithala, as well as Dube Trade Port, Trade & Investment KwaZulu-Natal, which is responsible for facilitating exports and investments. These agencies will be available to assist ordinary members of society,” Duma said.