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Police to act against illegal cannabis traders

The South African Police Service (Saps) has issued a stern warning that the establishment of illegal dispensaries/outlets, online sites and social media platforms marketing and selling cannabis and cannabis-related products to the public remains illegal.

The only exception is in cases where it is allowed in terms of the Medicines and Related Substances Act.

“Some of these illegal businesses, purporting to be operating legally in terms of the Traditional Health Practitioners Act (No. 22 of 2007), are also being sold to members of the public as franchises authorised to deal in cannabis and cannabis-related products,” explained Brigadier Vishnu Naidoo in a joint statement by the police and the South African Health Products Regulatory Authority (SAHPRA).

“In terms of the Traditional Health Practitioners Act, the definition of ‘traditional medicine’ means an object or substance used in traditional health practice for the diagnosis, treatment or prevention of a physical or mental illness or any curative or therapeutic purpose, including the maintenance or restoration of physical or mental health or well-being in human beings, but does not include a dependence producing or dangerous substance or drug.”

This means the Traditional Health Practitioners Act does not create a mechanism to sell cannabis and cannabis-related products that are not exempted in terms of the Medicines Act. Cannabis (the whole plant or parts or products of it) and tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) (the psychoactive substance that gives one a “high”) are currently listed as Schedule 7 substances in terms of the Medicines and Related Substances Act, 1965 (Act 101 of 1965) (the Medicines Act).

This is so except when cannabis is present in processed hemp fibre and products containing not more than 0,1 % of THC in a form not suitable for ingestion, smoking or inhaling purposes, or when present in processed products made from cannabis seed containing not more than 0,001 % of THC; or when used for medicinal purposes.

The police are mandated to act, not only against businesses that sell cannabis illegally, but also customers who buy these products, says Vishnu. Members of the public are encouraged to download the MySAPSApp on any iPhone or android to have easy access to the police to, among others, provide tip-offs, or to whom one may to report any information relating to the sale of cannabis to police or through the Saps Crime Stop number: 086 00 10111. Callers may remain anonymous and all information treated as strictly confidential.

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