Cannabis Law Update – Application Process for Hemp Permits in South Africa

Hemp has been declared as an agricultural crop under the Plant Improvement Act of 1976. It contains a low amount of THC and as such, the declaration of hemp as an agricultural crop now allows for the importation, exportation, cultivation, sale and research of hemp in South Africa however, it is now regulated under the Plant Improvement Act, 1976 and the Regulations published thereunder.

The Minister of Agriculture, Land Reform and Rural Development (“The Minister”) has opened the application process for hemp permits in South Africa.  Click here to access the application forms and requirements thereto

According to the Guidelines For Hemp (Low THC Cannabis) for Cultivation for Agricultural and Industrial Purposes  HP-GD-001 Guidelines for Hemp (002).pdf ( , any person, who intends to become involved in the hemp industry, must be aware of the following:

  1. No activity may be undertaken without a valid Hemp Permit in terms of Plant
    Improvement Act;
  2. Any type of business as defined in the Plant Improvement Act, that conducts business with hemp
    plants or propagating material for cultivation purposes, must be registered and be
    in possession of a valid registration certificate; no exemptions are applicable on
    hemp businesses;
  3. Copy of analytical report must always accompany hemp propagating material and
    harvested material (with clear traceability in relation to the material concerned);
    d. Compulsory authorisation for import of hemp propagating material in addition to
    the import permit for phytosanitary purposes, for both listed and unlisted varieties;
  4. Compulsory transport declaration must accompany distribution of hemp
    propagating material and harvested material;
  5. Compulsory varietal listing for Hemp varieties (cultivars);
  6. Compulsory certification of hemp plants and propagating material;
  7. Clear understanding of the provisions and requirements of the Plant Improvement Act;
  8. Cannabis varieties with THC levels more than 0.2% are subject to the provisions
    of the Medicines and Related Substances Act, 1965 and the Drugs and Drugs Trafficking Act, 1992;
  9. Compulsory disclosure of all criminal records. Anyone with a criminal record must mention such in the application process and if it’s for serious drug offences or organised crime the hemp permit will not be issued.

According to the Minister “this is a step towards the development of the Cannabis Master Plan, which aims to provide a broad framework for the development and growth of the South African cannabis industry in order to contribute to economic development, job creation, inclusive participation, rural development and poverty alleviation.” Click here to access the official statement made by the Minister:

It is interesting to note that the commercial use of cannabis is still currently prohibited in terms of the Drugs and Drug Trafficking Act 140 of 1992. As such, it is an offence if any provision of the Plant Improvement Act is not complied with and such offence may lead to prosecution in terms of Section 35.  It is also an offence if any provisions of the Medicines and Related Substances Act, 1965  and the Drugs and Drugs Trafficking Act, 1992  are not complied with and such offence may lead to conviction as outlined in the Act.