You’d be hard-pressed to find a Capetonian who doesn’t know about strawberry picking at Polkadraai Strawberry Farm in Stellenbosch and many local Muslims enjoy going out on a lekker family outing with some fun in the sun while hand-picking their favourite fruit. When the recent discovery that a cannabis farm was established near the strawberry farm, however, some Muslims were concerned with whether supporting the farm – and consuming its fruits – would be halal (permissible).
The cannabis grown on the farm – approximately 20 tons worth – is strictly for medicinal purposes. Co-owner of Polkadraai Farm, Leslie Zettler explained that the South African Health Products Regulatory Authority (SAHPRA) has granted the cannabis farm a commercial licence to cultivate cannabis for medical use and that SAHPRA has already inspected the facility twice.
“The license covers cultivation for import and export only. We can’t make any medicinal products or sell any products to customers or the public – we can only sell to licensed entities for export,” said Zettler.
The cannabis greenhouse will be completely independent of the strawberry farm, added Zettler.
“The strawberry picking is a business completely on its own. It will still operate and run as it currently is,” he said.
“It [the cannabis greenhouse] operates completely independently of Polkadraai and the facility is not on Polkadraai – it’s on another farm that’s isolated and more secure.”
“With all things in life, there are benefits and harm”
From an Islamic perspective, Moulana Dr Yusuf Arieff explained that there are conditions to the halal use of cannabis.
“Recreationally, the use of cannabis would be completely prohibited in Islam – it is haram. However, medicinally it is proven to be halal with two requirements: the first requirement being a medical condition requiring treatment, with a medical professional making a diagnosis and recommending cannabis use.
The second requirement is the proven effectiveness of the substance in the treatment of the condition – it should be proven that cannabis has been used for the illness in others and has proven to be of benefit in treating the illness,” said Arieff.
Moulana Dr Yusuf Arieff further cautioned that the use of cannabis could result in – including but not limited to – psychosis, behavioural changes and personality disorders.
“These are real negative effects which we witness on people using it in a recreational manner. However, the benefits of it have been proven…”
He continued, saying that while much research has been done with regard to the medicinal use of cannabis, if a Muslim wants to consume something that he or she is certain is halal, there needs to be a halal certifying body to give due process and certification, verifying and bringing ease to the mind that what is being consumed is permissible.
Mayoral Committee Member for Economic Opportunities and Asset Management at the City of Cape Town, Alderman James Vos believes the cannabis industry “could potentially bring significant income, jobs and skills development”.
“Given recent developments in the sector, I believe it’s the right time to start building partnerships with the private sector to unlock the economic potential of the medical cannabis industry… the introduction of the licensing framework for cultivation and manufacture of medicinal cannabis opens new investment opportunities in South Africa.
The City of Cape Town has definitely taken the lead by making the decision to release land within the Atlantis area for the establishment of the first medical cannabis plant in the Western Cape. We are committed to partnering with the private sector to explore new opportunities to grow the sector and the economy. The industry could potentially bring significant income, jobs and skills development.”