A grower with a cannabis leaf

Slovenia, Japan or South Africa: Which of these countries will be the next big cannabis player?

By: Guille Kannabia Activism

The regulation of cannabis is rapidly evolving across the globe, with many nations reconsidering their policies regarding this plant. Countries that have recently taken significant steps include Slovenia, Japan and South Africa. Each of these countries, with its unique cultural and legal contexts, is moving forward to become a relevant player in the global marijuana industry.

The future of CBD in Japan will shape the market

Japan, a nation known for its strict anti-drug laws, has surprised the world with recent moves towards the regulation of medical cannabis. For decades, the use of any form of marijuana has been severely criminalised in this country, but growing scientific evidence on the benefits of medical cannabis has now led to a paradigm shift.

Late last year, Japan took an important step after passing a bill to amend its 75-year-old Cannabis Control Act. After the project was approved, the Japanese authorities started fine-tuning the details of these reforms.

On 30th May this year, the Japanese government announced that it would now accept public comments from interested parties on five measures in the new bill, including THC analysis methods or cultivation licence reviews. Preliminary proposals suggest that Japan is looking to give up its complex and lengthy regulatory process for CBD products and could become the first country to approve CBD in food.

Japan already enjoys a thriving and well-established CBD market, and it is now believed that over 150 companies across the country import, manufacture or distribute a wide range of CBD products. But, despite all this, there are still strong restrictions on the products that can be bought and sold. This includes a stipulation that CBD and other hemp-derived products must have zero observable levels of THC, meaning the market is dominated by CBD isolate products.

This is expected to change, and initial reports suggest that the limit could be increased to 0.3% THC. Alongside this, current restrictions preventing the import of CBD products derived from stems and seeds will be removed. The bill could become a major milestone for the global cannabis industry, as Japan is one of the first countries that could approve CBD in food, paving the way for corporate companies to include CBD products in retail chains.

A vending machine in Japan with CBD-infused drinks
In Japan, you can purchase CBD-infused drinks from vending machines.

Voters approve a measure to legalise cannabis in Slovenia

Support for the modernisation of cannabis policies continues to gain momentum in Europe, with the latest example found in Slovenia. The largest party in the country’s current ruling coalition (i.e., the Freedom Movement) succeeded in its effort to include consultative referendums relating to medical and recreational cannabis on the ballot of the last European Parliament elections.

And most voters sent a clear message to their newly elected government: to approve a medical cannabis programme and the personal use of marijuana. More specifically, 66.6% of the Slovenian voters who participated in the election supported legislating the cultivation and processing of medical marijuana, while 51.6% supported the cultivation and possession of cannabis for limited personal use.

These results are consultative and non-binding. However, the approval of one or both of the referendum questions, particularly the one that has won by a large margin, should exert considerable political pressure on the Slovenian legislators to respect the will of the voters.

At the moment, limited medical cannabis activity is allowed in Slovenia, but recreational cannabis is still prohibited. Although this programme is more restrictive when compared to that of other European nations like Germany, Slovenia already serves as an international research and development centre for the cannabis sector. The vote in favour for the production and processing of medical cannabis, combined with the existing infrastructure, places the country in a great position to do the same with the emerging recreational cannabis industry.

South Africa legalises the use and cultivation of cannabis

South Africa has been one of the most progressive countries in Africa in terms of cannabis regulation. In 2018, the Constitutional Court decriminalised the personal use and cultivation of cannabis. Since then, the country has been working to establish a legal framework that allows both medical and recreational use.

On 27th May, in the run-up to the general elections in which the African National Congress lost its majority for the first time in 30 years, there was a major change in the country’s drug laws: President Cyril Ramaphosa signed the Cannabis for Private Purposes Bill, making South Africa the first African nation to legalise the use of marijuana.

Cannabis cultivation in South Africa
The recently ratified law decriminalizes the cultivation and consumption of cannabis in South Africa.

This bill has removed cannabis from the list of prohibited narcotics, meaning that adults are now free to grow and use the plant (except in the presence of children) anywhere where the public doesn’t have access by right. Adults can possess unlimited seeds and seedlings; up to four flowering plants per person or eight per household in private areas (if two or more adults live there); up to 100 grams of dry cannabis in a public space; and up to 600 grams of dry cannabis per person.

Nonetheless, the sale of cannabis and the creation of a legal market remain prohibited, as the new legislation only regulates possession, cultivation and use for personal purposes. In other words, it’s theoretically okay to have a forest of marijuana plants in your backyard, as long as you don’t profit from it. Having said that, a huge grey market has already emerged.

The new legislation has taken six years to develop. Since its implementation, shops and dispensaries have been selling cannabis under section 21 of the Medicines Act, which allows the purchase of “unregistered drugs” if prescribed by a doctor. These dispensaries can be found all over South Africa, and an increasing number of them have opened since speculation about this legislation accelerated late last year.

The real fight now is to regulate this trade to make sure that what happened in Thailand doesn’t also happen in South Africa. Thailand removed cannabis from its Narcotics Act in 2022, which led to thousands of quasi-legal dispensaries being opened in Bangkok and in tourist spots overnight. For many, this all happened far too quickly. A moral panic ensued, with lawmakers now taking a 180-degree turn and re-listing cannabis as a “category five” narcotic as of 1st January.

It was the lack of planning of regulated sales that created the chaotic retail market there, which in turn provoked this reaction. But South Africa’s more considered regulatory proposals, which don’t allow for commercial sales, should hopefully mean that we won’t see the same problems that Thailand has experienced.

Kannabia Seeds Company sells to its customers a product collection, a souvenir. We cannot and we shall not give growing advice since our product is not intended for this purpose.

Kannabia accept no responsibility for any illegal use made by third parties of information published. The cultivation of cannabis for personal consumption is an activity subject to legal restrictions that vary from state to state. We recommend consultation of the legislation in force in your country of residence to avoid participation in any illegal activity.

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