By Mercury Center
Johannesburg, South Africa — South Africa plans to grow hemp commercially to help impoverished rural people even though the plant is illegal, a provincial agriculture minister said Wednesday.
The Eastern Cape province has been granted a special license to start growing hemp, which is forbidden in the rest of the country because it falls under legislation governing marijuana.
The province’s agriculture minister, Max Mamase, said a small pilot project of four sites totaling about 10 acres of hemp had proved its viability.
“Hemp is ideal for the Eastern Cape given the levels of poverty there and the level of subsistence agriculture. If we bring in hemp it will change the method of production on communal farms,” Mamase told Reuters.
Speaking on the sidelines of an agri-business conference near Johannesburg, Mamase said he expected hemp to be legalized within three years. The national departments of agriculture, health and environmental affairs are working on new legislation.
Marijuana, which looks nearly identical to hemp, is widely grown in South Africa’s rural areas and provides many families in remote areas an important additional income.
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