Change in CBD regulation in South Africa

Regulatory experts at Webber Wentzel educate us on the recent change in CBD regulation: if CBD products contain less than 20mg for a daily dose, they will be considered over the counter products.

Constitutional Court ruling

Since the Constitutional Court, in September 2018, effectively decriminalised the possession, use and cultivation of cannabis in private dwellings in South Africa, there has been a rapid surge of cannabidiol (CBD)-containing products on the South African market.

CBD is an active non-psychoactive ingredient within cannabis which cannot make users of the product “high” as is the case with THC. THC is the other ingredient found within cannabis. The reported therapeutic benefits of CBD have resulted in it being featured in products, ranging from wellness, to dog treats and even in your morning smoothie.

The surge in CBD products was also spurred on by the uncertain and difficult regulatory regime that suppliers and distributers found themselves navigating.

Change in CBD regulation: from scheduled substance to OTC

CBD was considered a scheduled substance in terms of the schedules to the Medicines Act. This meant that products that contained CBD and were intended for therapeutic purposes could only be sold by pharmacists to consumers who held a prescription. This view was emphatically publicised by the South African Health Products Regulatory Authority (SAHPRA) in the media.

The Department of Health has since made a turnaround, by creating a significant space for CBD products to be sold to consumers. As of 23 May 2019, all products that contain a maximum daily dose of 20 mg of CBD, and are intended for general health enhancement or relief, are exempted from the operation of the schedules to the Medicines Act.

Arguably, products that fall within this threshold that are intended for therapeutic uses may still be required to register as complementary medicines with SAHPRA. But, once registered, will be capable of being sold directly to a consumer. In other words, CBD products which contain less than 20mg for a daily dose will be considered over the counter (OTC) products and may be sold openly in pharmacies, wellness stores and other outlets.

All products that contain a daily dose of more than 20mg of CBD will still be considered a scheduled substance in schedule 4 of the Medicines Act and would require a prescription to be sold.

Implications for commercial use of new CBD regulation

Notably, all processed products that contain naturally occurring CBD and THC (provided that no more than 0,0075% of the product contains CBD and not more than 0,001% of the product contains THC) may now be sold to consumers without any restrictions.

This change in the CBD regulations has implications for the commercial use of CBD in the manufacture of other products, including foodstuffs and alcohol. Before the recent amendment, consumer products, such as beer brewed from hemp seeds; hemp seed protein; hemp cooking oil; and even flax seeds were classified as scheduled substances by the authorities due the presence of trace amounts of CBD in these products.

The Department of Health’s announcement changes the legal status of these products and removes them from the strict regulation of the Medicines Act. These products may still, however, be subject to other regulatory regimes that govern foodstuffs and liquor.

These changes in the CBD regulations are exciting to the consumer sector and are music to the ears of suppliers of CBD products giving them scope to introduce their products into South Africa more easily. It will be interesting to keep an eye on SAHPRA’s attitude to the changes given that they will no doubt be flooded with registration applications in the coming months.

Exemption applies for one year only

While these changes signify the Department of Health’s relaxation of the regulation of CBD, the exemption applies for one year only. This signals that government is adopting a wait-and-see-approach before committing firmly to a policy position on CBD.

After last year’s Constitutional Court ruling, cannabis will also be squarely on Parliament’s agenda as they have been ordered to make changes to the laws regulating the private use of cannabis. This presents an opportunity for the public’s voices to be heard, not only regarding the private use of cannabis but also in shaping the approach to the commercialisation of cannabis derived products in South Africa going forward.

The recent change to the legal status of CBD, together with the issue of the first three licences to cultivate cannabis for medical use earlier this year by SAHPRA, signals a shifting perspective on the role of cannabis which will hopefully pave the way for the expansion of the cannabis market in South Africa in the near future.


Megan Adderley has experience in judicial review proceedings in the High Courts and litigation relating to municipal powers and functions, providing strategic advice to private sector clients in negotiations with organs of state, preparing and presenting training workshops for local government officials, assisting in drafting the legal aspects of various government policies, advising on co-operative governance responsibilities of various organs of state and conducting due diligence investigations on potential projects and developments. She advises a wide range of clients including all spheres of government and private sector on the administrative and criminal enforcement of environmental, heritage and planning laws. Megan also advises non-profit clients on a wide variety of administrative appeals and reviews, and industry associations on the constitutionality of proposed amendments to legislation.


Rodney Africa specialises in all matters relating to procurement, local government and general administrative law. He also practices constitutional, public private partnership and general regulatory and compliance law. Rodney has advised clients from both the public and private sectors, and has been involved in various matters relating to procurement, access to information, public decision making, public finance management, the valuation and rating of properties, and all aspects of land use planning and development law. He is an expert in matters involving the public sector and has advised on regulatory matters in a variety of industries. Rodney has extensive experience in litigation in respect of the above areas of law, with a specific focus on judicial review and mandamus applications, tender disputes, interdicts and declaratory relief. He has been a member of the audit committees of various local government departments.


Deerah Pillay-Lungoomiah focuses on of public and regulatory law, administrative and constitutional law. She also has experience in advising on procurement law related matters. From a regulatory perspective, she has particular expertise in transport, renewables, tourism, tobacco and fishing.


Adriano Esterhuizen is an expert in procurement, local government law, administrative law and constitutional law. He has extensive experience in dealing with matters relating to property rights, procurement, environmental law, land use planning law, legislation relevant to municipal governance, as well as general statutory and regulatory compliance matters. His services are open to public and private sector clients. He regularly litigates in both the Magistrates’ and High Courts and is able to assist clients with specialist review applications, tender disputes, interdicts and declaratory relief.

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Is it worth getting a diabetic alert dog in South Africa?

James Leech explains the pros and cons of a diabetic alert dog in the South African setting.

What is a diabetic alert dog?

A diabetic alert dog is a guide/service/assistance dog trained to detect high or low levels of blood sugar in humans with diabetes. These dogs then alert their owners to dangerous changes in blood glucose levels.

South African setting

A service dog is an amazing resource. Diabetic alert dogs, in many cases, perform better and are more advantageous than diabetic alert equipment. The idea and novelty is amazing. However, in South Africa, you really need to identify the pros and cons if it is really worth investing in one for the following reasons:

Training programme and suitable match

Having a dog qualify to become a service dog is the equivalent to applying to the South African Special Forces. From all the entrants, there is a very low conversion rate.

This is not because the dogs were not of amazing calibre but because one must first assess: the dog’s traits, training ability, environment they will be going into, and whether the dog will be a suitable match to the owner.

Watch this video. It gives a full account of potential issues including the trainer’s personal bias.

Enforcement and support of the law

The Promotion of Equality and Prevention of Unfair Discrimination Act, 2000 (PEPUDA or the Equality Act, Act No. 4 of 2000) is a comprehensive South African anti-discrimination law. It prohibits unfair discrimination by the government, private organisations and individuals and forbids hate speech and harassment. A powerful and supportive piece of legislation. I have used it several times in court applications in protecting the rights of my service dog usage.

The cultural rainbow of South Africa

In South Africa, there is a fairly large subset of the population with a fear of dogs. Adding to that, certain religious objections to dogs being within a home environment or public spaces.

  • Encountering resistance

In South Africa, typically, if you are not visibly blind, i.e. a cane, sunglasses and a guide dog in a full uniform and accessories, you are likely to encounter resistance.

This is a cultural and retail training issue. For example, a decade ago, when I was helping in difficult cases for the South African Guide-Dogs Association for the Blind, an incident occurred. A woman went to a government bank. She was 90% blind and had a guide dog. However, she didn’t look the typical biased view of a blind person.

The security personal stopped her, continually berated her, bringing her to tears on the floor. Her guide dog starts barking and causing a further scene. None of this ended happily in the end.

After hearing this story and many others I was the first in South Africa to develop a certificate, issued by the court, that can be carried by special service dog carriers, acting as a proxy medium of assistance.

This document greatly helps but one still encounters resistance in needing to approach the courts. I highly recommend you have money saved aside to hire an advocate (not attorney) in handling these matters on your behalf, as it can be great stress undertaking it on your own when you are not familiar with the system.

The blessing

If you are fortunate enough to have a guide/service/assistance dog, they can provide an amazing blessing. In the picture (above) is my non-nativeelectromagnetic fields (nnEMF) service dog, Pebble and one of my children.

I have electromagnetic field intolerance syndrome (EMFIS). She picks up when my tolerance to the radiation in the environment is low, and/or when causing a neurological and functional impairment she helps me navigate through the space.

From my personal point of view, if I didn’t have to have a service dog, I would prefer not to. The obstacles one faces in terms of unfair discrimination, unwanted attention, questions and hoops having to jump through can be taxing.

However, in my circumstances, I am blessed that she is able to do her job in aiding me in certain environments and helping provide added independence.

Getting her was a family choice based on our circumstances. It was deemed unfair to rely on my wife and three children in assisting me for the rest of my life. Plus, it is more reasonable to have Pebble as an assistive aid to improving the quality of life for all of us.


Do not get a diabetic alert dog because it sounds and looks cool. First, take all steps to treat the epigenetic disease of Type 1, 1,5, 2 or 3 diabetes.

Once it is well-managed and depending on your circumstances, and environmental exposures, if needed, then consider getting investing the time, money and patience into one.

List to my podcast [] ep 31 – How SARS helps with my service dog – Disability Tax Incentives


James Lech is a consulting scientist to doctors, architects and attorneys. He is a doctoral candidate in sub-molecular medicine/ biophysics and a contracted agent of national government in novel research and solutions.

Healthiest city in South Africa revealed

Cape Town is the healthiest city in South Africa. The city has the highest number of people who are a healthy weight. Plus, they purchase the most vegetables and fruit when compared with South Africa’s other major cities. 

Finding the healthiest city

Discovery Vitality ObeCity Index 2017 presented the latest insights on weight status (measured by Body Mass Index and waist circumference) and food purchasing behaviour of nearly half a million Vitality members in Johannesburg, Pretoria, Cape Town, Durban, Bloemfontein and Port Elizabeth.

“Insights from the Vitality ObeCity Index 2017 allow us to better understand the amount of sugar and salt in the foods we are actually buying, as well as fruit and vegetable consumption,” says Dr Craig Nossel, Head of Vitality Wellness.

Impact of obesity

The impact of obesity on individual health, globally, is significant. The number of people who die each year because of being overweight or obese (4,5 million) is now more than the number of worldwide deaths linked to being underweight.

In addition to health concerns, obesity impacts the global economy. R16,4 trillion is lost each year, which is roughly equivalent to the impact from smoking or wars globally. The economic impact of obesity in South Africa is estimated to be R701 billion each year.

Processed foods

One of the most important factors contributing to the obesity epidemic are changes in dietary patterns, characterised by the increased consumption of sugar, salt, fat and animal products. Ultra-processed food contains high percentages of most of these products.

In South Africa, sales of ready-made meals, snack bars and instant noodles increased by 40% between 2005 and 2010. Fast food consumption continues to grow, negatively impacting our weight.

Healthcare costs

Dr Craig Nossel says, “We see a direct correlation between weight status and health outcomes. People with an unhealthy bodyweight incur a direct increase in healthcare costs of approximately R4 400 per person per year. We also know that the purchase of healthy foods has a positive impact on BMI and the associated risks of developing chronic diseases of lifestyle.”

Discovery data shows that members who purchase healthy foods have a 10% lower BMI compared to those who purchase unhealthy foods. The same purchasing behaviour is associated with up to R2 500 lower health costs per year.

Conclusion in a nutshell

In reviewing the results, Distinguished Professor of Nutrition at the University of North Carolina, Barry Popkin, says, “The analysis underlying this report shows that by reducing purchasing of unhealthy confectionary and convenience meals and processed meats, a half unit of BMI would be decreased and similarly reducing sugary drinks and salty snacks would produce a similar impact. Both changes were linked with replacement by healthier foods and healthier beverages. These reductions in BMI were in both cases associated with lower healthcare costs per year. But more importantly, these create longer-term healthier eating trajectories which promise to have even greater effects.”

Dr Craig Nossel concludes, “While tackling obesity is complex, it is critical that we all do our bit. As individuals, we need to move more and consciously make healthier food choices. As businesses – manufacturers, retailers, or restaurant owners – we need to actively contribute to creating a society where the healthy choice is the easier choice.”

A summary of the results of the healthiest city:

Category  Description  Rank 
Weight status A combined score using Body Mass Index (BMI) with waist circumference. 1. CT

2. JHB

3. DBN

4. PTA



Food purchasing score The ratio of healthy to healthy-plus-unhealthy products purchased at Pick n Pay and Woolworths through the HealthyFood benefit. The higher the score, the healthier the basket of food.  

1. CT

2. BLM

3. PE

4. Pretoria

5. JHB

6. DBN

Fruit and vegetable intake The average number of fruit and vegetable portions purchased per member. 1. CT

2. JHB

3. BLM

4. PTA

5. PE

6. DBN

Salt intake The average number of teaspoons of salt purchased per member – determined by taking into account purchases of salt as well as of high-salt foods. 1. DBN

2. PE

3. PTA

4. BLM

5. CT

6. JHB

Sugar intake The average number of teaspoons of sugar purchased per member – determined by taking into account purchases of sugar as well as sugary snacks and drinks. 1. DBN

2. PE

3. PTA

4. JHB

5. CT

6. BLM

The low down on South Africa’s sugar tax

The Minister of Finance announced in the February 2016 National Budget a decision to introduce a tax on sugar-sweetened beverages (SSBs), with effect from 1 April 2017, to help reduce excessive sugar intake by South Africans. A revision of the proposed tax was discussed in the February 2017 Budget Speech, where it was announced that the tax will be implemented later in 2017 once further consultations have taken place. The Association for Dietetics in South Africa (ADSA) welcomes this step as one part of the solution to address the obesity problem and improve the health of South Africans.

How much sugar do South Africans really consume?

When you think of sugar-sweetened beverages, the first thing that comes to mind is the regular fizzy drink, but the term encompasses far more than that. SSBs are beverages containing added sweeteners that provide energy (calories or kilojoules) such as sucrose, high-fructose corn syrup or fruit-juice concentrates. This includes carbonated drinks (fizzy soft drinks and energy drinks), non-carbonated drinks (sports drinks, iced teas, vitamin water drinks and juice concentrates), sweetened milk drinks and sweetened fruit juices. And, many of us do not realise just how much sugar is found in these drinks. For example, a 330ml bottle of iced tea has a little over six teaspoons of sugar.

ADSA is concerned that the intake of added sugars (sugars added to foods and drinks during processing by the food manufacturing companies, cook or consumer) is increasing in South Africa, both in adults and children. Some estimate that children typically consume approximately 40-60g/day of added sugar, possibly rising to as much as 100g/day in adolescents. High intakes of added sugar, particularly as SSBs, has been shown to lead to weight gain and cause dental caries. The added sugar in these drinks makes them high in energy (kilojoules). Because these drinks don’t make us feel full in the same way that eating food does, most of us don’t reduce our food intake to compensate, making it easy to consume too many kilojoules. Over time, these extra kilojoules can cause one to become overweight, putting us at risk for diabetes, heart disease and certain cancers. Obesity is already a massive problem in South Africa, with two in three women and one in three men being overweight or obese, as well as almost one in four children.

What is ADSA’s recommendation for sugar intake?

ADSA supports the recommendations by the World Health Organisation (WHO) and the South African Food-Based Dietary Guidelines that we need to reduce the intake of beverages and foods that contain added sugars, such as sugar-sweetened beverages, sweetened yoghurts, frozen desserts, some breakfast cereals, ready-to-use sauces, cereal bars, health, savoury and sweet biscuits, baked products, canned or packaged fruit products, sweets and chocolates. The WHO advises reducing the intake of free sugars found in foods and beverages (including added sugars, but excluding sugars naturally present in fresh fruits, vegetables and milk) to less than 10% of total energy (kilojoule) intake for the day (i.e. 50g of sugar, which is approximately 12 teaspoons per day), with a conditional recommendation to further reduce intake to 5% of total energy (approximately six teaspoons per day) for additional health benefits. The South African Food-Based Dietary Guidelines also advise to ‘use sugar and foods and drinks high in sugar sparingly’. To put this into perspective, a 500ml bottle of a carbonated drink will provide your maximum sugar allowance for an entire day!

The sugar tax – is it a good idea?

The proposed tax on SSBs will mean an additional tax will be added on to the purchase price of sugary drinks, which is intended to decrease the purchase and consumption of SSBs. Encouragingly, in Mexico, a sugar tax has reduced sugary drink sales by 12% in the first year. The sugar tax is likely to affect shelf prices, but will also motivate manufacturers to reduce the amount of sugar added to their products. Initially, the proposal was for a tax rate of 20% on the added sugar content of a beverage. But in the February 2017 Budget Speech, it was announced that the proposed tax rate has been reduced to about 11%. ADSA is concerned that the lower tax rate might not be sufficiently high enough to have a significant impact on purchasing behaviour, and has submitted comments to National Treasury to motivate to strengthening the tax. ADSA welcomes the proposed tax on SSBs, but acknowledges that the sugar tax is only part of the solution to address the growing obesity problem. Just as taxing tobacco does not reduce or stop smoking by all people, taxing SSBs will not reduce or stop all purchasing and consumption of SSBs and reduce obesity on its own. Obesity is a complex condition, and sugar is not the only cause. There is a need for multiple interventions across a variety of different sectors to address unhealthy diets and lifestyles and have an impact on the obesity epidemic. ADSA recommends that revenue generated from the tax should go towards health promoting interventions, such as subsidies to reduce the costs of fruits and vegetables, education around healthy choices, and creating an enabling environment to make those healthier choices easier.

In addition to reducing the consumption of SSBs to prevent obesity and promote long-term health, ADSA continues to recommend a healthy diet which includes whole grains, fruit, vegetables, nuts, legumes, healthy oils, proteins such as lean meats and seafood, and a reduced intake of processed meats and salt, accompanied by regular physical activity.

To find a registered dietitian in your area, visit

ADSA’s detailed Position Statement on the Proposed Taxation of Sugar-Sweetened Beverages, with references, can be accessed here:

This article was written by The Association for Dietetics in South Africa (ADSA).