Last year the South African Cannabis Survey of Users and Growers, was launched by Social Surveys Institute and Fields of Green for ALL to help understand the South African Cannabis industry. The survey was funded by Cannabis consulting firms Global GO and the ACA Group in which the findings were presented in a webinar titled: On the Ground; Lessons and Insights from African Cannabis Operators.

Thobile Disemelo, from Social Surveys Institute, unpacked the survey findings and the results are interesting to say the least.

Sample Size and Methodology

  • There were a total of 2043 suburban respondents in this WhatsApp based survey.
  • The sample is predominantly urban metro and because of the WhatsApp methodology – a high proportion of the sample is middle class.
  • Whilst the survey provides new insights into the sub-urban Cannabis sector, the critical constituency of small rural farmers, Rastas and indigenous farmers were not included.

Sample Distribution

  • Majority of the respondents were from Gauteng, Western Cape, KwaZulu-Natal and Eastern Cape.
  • The distribution of the sample by race showed that 63% of respondents were White, 12% Black, 5% Asian, 10% Coloured and 2% Mixed. It is not representative of South Africa and the WhatsApp methodology may have been the reason for this.
  • Interestingly the age of the sample showed that whilst the majority were between 18-39 years old, 18% were between 40-49 years and 11% were between 50-79 years. It dispels the myth that Cannabis users consists of only young people and that as you get older you stop using Cannabis. International trends also indicate more Cannabis users falling in this older age group, which should further demonstrate Cannabis use is not age specific.

Income Levels and Cannabis Spend

  • 55% of the urban metro sample was middle class with only 7% unemployed. Whilst this is not an accurate reflection of the high unemployment rates in South Africa, it does show that Cannabis users are normal everyday people working to earn an income.
  • 81% of the sample use Cannabis daily and spent an average amount of R1 944 per month. This equates to over R50 Million monthly just from this sample, indicating that there is great economic potential if you extrapolate this across an entire country.

Medicinal Purposes

  • 63% of the sample used Cannabis for medicinal purposes with most using it to treat depression, anxiety and inability to sleep. Furthermore 95% said it had helped them considerably during COVID19 to deal with depression and anxiety
  • 94% of those using Cannabis for medicinal purposes would strongly recommend it to others, indicating strong efficacy whether anecdotal or not.

Growers and Job Creation

  • 71% of the sample grows Cannabis with a large proportion having started growing in the past five years. 83% grew outdoors, 49% indoors and 22% in greenhouses or tunnels. It must be noted that there is a direct correlation between socio-economic status and number of plants grown i.e. access to land.
  • One in five growers earns more than a quarter of their income from Cannabis and every grower employed on average 3 people, accounting for 4351 jobs created by this sample alone.

Police and Plant Counting

  • 15% of the sample had been arrested and 86% arrested for dealing indicated that they only grow for personal use. On average most of those arrested had been arrested twice.
  • There was a strong resistance to limiting the number of plants grown based on the proposed Cannabis for Private Purposes Bill of 2020.

The survey has demonstrated the massive potential of the South African Cannabis industry once it is commercially legalised. The WhatsApp methodology used does not represent the full demographic snapshot of South Africa, as tens of thousands of indigenous rural growers still need their voices to be heard. A broader, more in-depth National Cannabis Survey will still need to be conducted in order to include the kasinomic sector. The Social Surveys Institute will begin to embark on this project once the necessary funds are raised and Fields of Green for ALL will be standing by to assist.

We would like to say thank you to everyone who responded to the survey, as well as those who shared it across their social networks.

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