Is CBD Legal in South Africa?

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t’s important to explain exactly what CBD is before we discuss the implications of the legal revision of CBD in South Africa.

What is CBD?

CBD, which stands for Cannabidiol, is a major component of the cannabis plant. It was discovered in 1940. It is the most abundant active ingredient in the marijuana plant after tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), with CBD accounting for about 40% of the total plant constituent.

While THC is responsible for the weed plant’s psychoactive effect, CBD has no such effect. CBD has also been found not to elicit dependence among users, making it a greatly touted chemical compound in our society. It is being incorporated into many products, such as gummies, creams, chocolates, beverages, and more.

CBD has been implicated in treating and managing several illnesses such as childhood epilepsy syndrome (Lennox-Gastaut syndrome (LGS) and Dravet syndrome), anxiety, insomnia, and chronic pain. In spite of this supposed health efficacy, there is no sufficient evidence to strongly support these claims.

Methods of CBD ingestion

There are various ways through which you can enjoy CBD. Each of the routes employed has its specific advantages and effects.

Oral Consumption: CBD can be consumed orally with oil tinctures, capsules, isolates, gummies, and chocolates.

Sublingual Administration: You can ingest CBD by utilising the sublingual route. Oils and nasal sprays can be administered by this means.

Topical Application: CBD can be applied on the skin for localised effects. Cream, gel, balm, or ointment follow this route of administration.

Inhalation: This method mostly suits vapers. The e-liquids, flowers, extracts, and inhalers are the few CBD products that can be consumed via this means.

Now that we are convinced that you understand the basics of CBD, let us return to discussing CBD in South Africa.

CBD Legality in South Africa

Until recently, the cannabis plant had been stigmatised and controversial and largely believed to cause havoc because of its psychoactive effects. In reality, the plant has hundreds of active ingredients of which only one – the THC – causes the “high.” As a result, the use and consumption of hemp has been illegal in many countries until lately. With the discovery and isolation of CBD, the potential of the cannabis plant drastically changed, and the CBD revolution began.

The change has been gradual but consistent, sweeping across Europe, and North and South America. Now, South Africa became the first country in the African continent to enact a law legalising cannabis and CBD. Therefore use, possession, personal cultivation, and cannabis consumption are no longer criminal offences in South Africa. The health minister Mr. Aaron Motsoaledi announced this initial legal modification in May 2019 based on the counsel of the South African Health Products Regulatory Authority (SAHPRA).

The decriminalization of CBD and its removal from the list of illegal substances were at first meant to last for one year. However, in May 2020, the minister further solidified CBD’s legal status by leaving it permanently in Schedule 4, and CBD products in Schedule 0 on the conditions listed here. THC is also placed in schedule 6, and THC products in schedule 0, provided they meet the following conditions:

  1. The THC is in crude plant material or refined products made from the material, intended for industrial purposes and not for human or animal ingestion, containing 0.2% or less of tetrahydrocannabinol;
  2. The processed products made from cannabis contain 0.001% or less of tetrahydrocannabinol; or
  3. The raw plant material is cultivated, possessed, and consumed by an adult, in private for personal consumption.

Although CBD in South Africa no longer constitutes a criminal offence, CBD products must contain only a trace quantity of THC and not more than 20 milligrams of CBD per daily dose. Thus, the CBD products must contain less than 0.001% of THC and 0.0075% of CBD, with the product pack containing no more than 600mg CBD in total.

In the EU and the UK, CBD is strongly regulated and classified as a novel food, meaning that manufacturers can make no unsubstantiated or ambiguous medical or health efficacy claims. Likewise, in South Africa, CBD is sold without specific reference to effectiveness on any disease or health challenges. The products are only said to help in general health maintenance and enhancement.

The law also stipulates that all aspects of the industry must be licensed, including the farmers, to ensure strict compliance with guidelines. The product content must be accurately displayed on the label, and all products must be free of impurities such as heavy metals, pesticides, etc. The cultivation license specifies these conditions and, upon issuance, lasts for five years. The farms must also conform to the Guide to Good Manufacturing Practices for Medicines.

The authorities believe that these stringent regulations will ensure the industry is made up of only the most reliable farmers, manufacturers, and distributors. In light of the above, CBD can increase in popularity in South Africa, and, like in Europe, can become a multi-billion dollar industry. This makes it a win-win for both the country and the CBD enthusiasts.

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