However, it did not have a cannabis plant!
It is a four-day-long expo and opened in South Africa’s capital of Pretoria on Thursday. It is a blatant illustration of the grey area legality the cannabis industry holds in the most developed economy on the continent.
The Constitutional Court decriminalized the cultivation and use of cannabis within private spaces back in September. However, this decision did not make it legal for distribution or trade. Even having cannabis on display in public remains dubiously illegal.
The exhibitors at the expo decided to get creative. Kruger’s company named Sombrero Hydroponics has seen spikes in customer inquiries since the law passed in September. His stand instead displayed a couple of artificial poinsettias as stand-ins for cannabis plants.
“People just feel more comfortable now, because they don’t have this added thought in the back of their mind thinking, ‘What if the cops stop at my house?'” Kruger said. “They’re coming out of the closet, in this case the tent.”
Expo goers bought tickets in the hundreds and were seen already waiting to enter before the event started. Not everyone agreed with the ground rules though.
Steven Thapelo Khundu is a cannabis activist who was handing out buds from a plastic bag at the entrance of the expo. He encouraged people attending the event to bring them inside.
“Free Ganga Free! Free Ganga Free!” he shouted out loud as security removed him by force.
Lawmakers have been given two years to make amendments to the country’s cannabis laws following the court decision. However, the industry is not waiting.
A legal framework for licensing growers was recently established by South Africa. Canada’s Canopy Growth has a local unit, in August it received a $4 billion investment pledge from the maker of Corona beer, Constellation brands, and are among the early applicants.
“I don’t think most people realize just how big the cannabis industry is in Africa already, in South Africa already,” Silas Howarth mentioned, the Cannabis Expo’s co-founder.
For now, companies internationally are looking to get licenses to produce cannabis for export. Gerhard Naude who founded the healthcare company Go Life International, says he believes a fully legal domestic industry is just a matter of time.
“I think there will be a few licenses awarded, and very closely regulated. I think in two years we’ll definitely have a license, for the use of medicinal cannabis in any case,” Gerhard Naude stated.
Itumeleng Tau says he’s grown marijuana for about 20 years. He said he’s among an increasing amount of underground cannabis entrepreneurs. He hopes the pending legal changes are going to allow them to bring their businesses out of the shadows and be turned into public businesses. He says the expo was an important initial step, but having no actual marijuana was strange and weird.
“It’s something very, very wrong … It’s like we came to a party but there’s no music.” Mr. Tau said.
Kyle James Lee – The AEGIS Alliance – This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 4.0 International License.