Is Cannabis Oil Legal in South Africa?
There’s understandably a lot of confusion around the legality of cannabis oil in South Africa, given the ever-changing laws around its consumption and use. That said, the last few years have been very exciting for the country’s Cannabis industry.
For the purposes of this blog, we hope to demystify the laws currently governing the use of Cannabis oil in South Africa. We’ve already touched on this briefly in our blog covering everything you need to know about CBD oil in South Africa.
The Cannabis plant and the oil that is extracted from it naturally contains many different compounds, but perhaps the most well-known are cannabidiol (CBD) and tetrahydrocannabinol (THC).
A Cannabis plant naturally contains both of these compounds however some plants are lower in THC (referred to as hemp and grown for industrial purposes) and some are higher in THC (referred to as Cannabis and grown for adult use and medicinal uses).
As CBD is non-psychoactive and THC is psychoactive, South Africa’s laws treat these substances differently.
The first changes to South African law occurred back in 2018 when the personal and private use, possession, and cultivation of the plant were decriminalized by the Constitutional Court of South Africa. At this momentous time, South Africa became one of the most lenient countries in the world in terms of the private use of Cannabis. Many are excited by the potential for Cannabis to benefit the local South African economy.
However, the laws were quite vague and further clarification was needed with the Constitutional Court giving the government 24 months to put the judgement into law.
Then, in May 2019, acting on the recommendations of the South African Health Products Regulatory Authority (SAHPRA), the Minister of Health down scheduled CBD to a Schedule 4 substance, classifying it as a new therapeutic substance needing a prescription.
CBD-containing products were wholly descheduled by an exemption notice.
Agricultural hemp as raw cannabis plant material continued to be Schedule 7 which is used to classify substances such as heroin that aren’t recognised for medicinal use apart from scientific study and have a very high risk of dependence and abuse.
One year later, in May 2020, South Africa’s health minister published Notice R586 in the Government Gazette 43347.
In terms of CBD, this notice confirmed CBDs status as a schedule 4 substance and also descheduled CBD products (like CBD oils, CBD tinctures, and CBD capsules. ). It further required CBD products to contain only a maximum of 600mg of CBD per pack and 20mg of CBD per serving.
In terms of THC, Notice R586, down scheduled THC from Schedule 7 to Schedule 6, classifying it as moderately to highly addictive and includes narcotics and pain killers.
This notice, therefore, recognizes the medicinal and psychoactive nature of Cannabis, and thus regulates its consumption by medicines and criminal laws.
The notice also completely descheduled THC when:
- found in raw and processed plant material (like hemp) when intended for industrial purposes, containing less than 0,2% THC.
- contained in processed products made from cannabis containing at most 0,001% THC (later increased to 0,0075%).
What are the legal implications for buying Cannabis oil in South Africa?
Due to the laws of South Africa classifying THC as Schedule 6, the personal and private use, possession and cultivation has been decriminalized, but you’re unable to purchase Cannabis oil containing any more than 0,0075% of THC.
Cannabis oil containing CBD is allowed as a therapeutic substance without needing a prescription, as it falls under some of the specific CBD-containing products which are descheduled.
These CBD containing products include:
● Complementary medicines containing no more than 600mg CBD per sales pack (with a max daily dose of 20mg) and with restraints on medical claims.
● Processed products created from raw cannabis plant material intended for ingestion containing no more than 0,0075% CBD where only the naturally occurring quantity of cannabinoids found in the source material is found in the product.
The products containing CBD that the notice retains as Schedule 4 or THC in Schedule 6 need to be sold by pharmacists or prescribed by your doctor.
Why Cannabis Oil Spectrums matter from a legal standpoint
When purchasing Cannabis oil, you will find that different “spectrum” oils are available. This refers to the processing that the oil has undergone from its crude Cannabis form. Your options include full-spectrum, broad-spectrum, and isolate.
Full-spectrum CBD Cannabis oil – it’s all in the name. This type of CBD hemp oil has a full and complete profile of compounds, like cannabinoids and terpenes, in relation to the original plant material. This includes natural ratios of both THC and CBD. This maintains the original balance found in the original plant material.
Due to THC being scheduled differently from CBD, Cannabis oil available for purchase through suppliers such as Cheeba Africa, often has all trace amounts of THC removed. A full-spectrum oil with the THC removed (usually through an extraction process known as chromatography), is known as broad-spectrum. Cheeba Africa is a proud supplier of premium broad-spectrum CBD oils containing the original concentrations of cannabinoids and terpenes but without the psychoactive compound THC. Cheeba’s CBD Oils are safe to take day or night.
CBD isolate is the purest form of CBD and is also the most distilled. This makes it the furthest from the crude oil of the whole plant with its natural balance of compounds. This process essentially boils away all beneficial compounds, leaving only pure CBD, and is thus the furthest from the oil extracted from raw plant material.
If South Africa follows the trend of overseas markets, after decriminalization and medical use is allowed, there tends to be a steady progression of legislation.
The opportunity to generate taxes on legal Cannabis sales while at the same saving the money usually spent on police raids of Cannabis growing operations should be tempting to the government.
The labour-intensive farming techniques of both Cannabis and hemp would also be appealing to the government in terms of job creation.
With an ever-changing environment, it does seem there is good news for CBD customers, Cannabis growers, and hemp farmers on the horizon.