It is now legal to buy CBD derived from cannabis throughout South Africa without a prescription after it was removed from the country’s drug classification system.

CBD was previously on par with heroin as it fell under schedule 7 of the Medicines Act. However, health minister Aaron Motsoaledi has reclassified it under schedule 4, which means it is available at pharmacies to anyone with a prescription.

For the next 12 months, low-dose CBD products will also be entirely outside drug regulations, meaning anyone can sell them to South Africans without the need for a prescription. This exemption will expire in May 2020, but it can be renewed and extended.

It covers wellness products containing no more than 20mg of CBD, which do not claim to treat or cure a particular medical condition.

It essentially makes South Africa the first African country to legalize CBD use, creating the first federally approved market for non-prescription CBD on the continent.

Africa-focused cannabis company Southern Sun Pharma Inc., which is in the process of a reverse takeover of AIM3 Ventures (TSXV: AIMC.P), was excited to learn of the news. “This is a landmark piece of legislation, enabling wide scale access to CBD products,” said chief executive Warren Schewitz. “As a pioneer in the African cannabis sector, Southern Sun Pharma has been preparing for advancements such as these for some time.”

In September 2018, South Africa decriminalized cannabis for personal use after the Constitutional Court rules that a ban was unconstitutional. It ensured that it is no longer a criminal offence to grow cannabis and enjoy it at home, although it remains illegal to supply it and to smoke marijuana in public.

This means that an industry has been unable to spring up and the government has not brought in any revenue through taxing sales.

Previously, South Africans could apply for special dispensation to use cannabis-derived medicine, but the Health Products Regulatory Authority had issued a mere 56 licenses by February 2019. It will now be far easier for South Africans to buy CBD-based products and there is now huge potential for the commercialization of CBD wellness products across the country.