Perspectives of illicit marijuana growers and traders on commercial legalization of marijuana in South Africa: considerations for policy formulation

Over the past era, there has been a call for legalizing marijuana cultivation and trading for commercial purposes in South Africa. Advocates of the call argue that the criminalization of commercial marijuana cultivation and trading has failed to stop illicit marijuana cultivation and trading. Nevertheless, the views of those who economically benefit from the illicit marijuana trade on its legalization remain empirically unsolicited.

This study aimed to understand the views of illegal marijuana growers and traders from two selected communities in the Eastern Cape Province of South Africa regarding the commercial legalization of marijuana cultivation and trading to inform policy on the debate.

In-depth key informant interview approach was used to interview 18 purposively sampled participants that were selected through the snowball sampling technique. The data were analyzed using the thematic content analysis approach.

Participants had both positive and negative perceptions of the possible legalization of marijuana cultivation and trading.

On the positive side, participants indicated the below:

  • Freedom from police,
  • The opportunity to grow marijuana on a larger scale,
  • Capital acquisition for commercial marijuana cultivation and trading,
  • And regulation of marijuana prices through unionization as some of the benefits they would derive from the commercial legalization of marijuana cultivation and trading.

On the negative side, contributors mentioned the below:

  • Loss of their source of livelihood,
  • Fall in the price of marijuana,
  • Perceived increase in school drop-out rates were the concerns raised.

While participants relished improvement in their economic fortunes upon commercial legalization of marijuana cultivation and trading, they were also concerned about this policy due to the perceived outcomes it may have on their livelihoods and communities.

Future discussions of the commercial legalisation of marijuana cultivation and trading in South Africa should be done in consultation with illicit marijuana growers and traders to ensure that their concerns are safeguarded by such a policy.

Citation
Manu, E., Douglas, M., Ntsaba, M.J. et al. Perspectives of illicit marijuana growers and traders on commercial legalisation of marijuana in South Africa: considerations for policy formulation. Subst Abuse Treat Prev Policy 16, 54 (2021). https://doi.org/10.1186/s13011-021-00391-w
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