Is Cape Town Destined to be the New Amsterdam?

Cannabis Culture writes

CANNABIS CULTURE – South Africa is one of the locations that could replace Amsterdam as the world’s foremost cannabis tourism destination, says the National Geographic Magazine. Such a lofty comparison has elicited everything from shrugs to thrills amongst local producers. 

“As Amsterdam bows out what will be the new capital of cannabis tourism?” the National Geographic asked recently, tipping South Africa and Thailand as the potential candidates to snatch Amsterdam’s crown in the growing multi-billion global cannabis tourism niche industry.

High thrills

Cannabis tour operators are flourishing in South Africa with industry players organizing highly popular so-called “bud and breakfast” venues. These are camping sites or bouquet hotels that offer traditional tourist stays and spaces for legal cannabis consumption. Hemp-based fabrics, clothing, and food products, are also enjoying brilliant sales across South Africa, Tafadzwa Matiza, tourism expert at the country’s North-West University, was quoted as saying in the  National Geographic interview. Cannabis Culture has previously reported of an architectural novelty in South Africa where the world’s tallest hemp building was built and opened in the coastal city of Cape Town. The ‘Hemp Hotel’, a 12-story structure in Cape Town, has earned the crown of the being the tallest building made on hemp worldwide. In addition, the Daily Maverick, an influential publication in South Africa, gloated about the country’s existing cannabis tourism thrills and cited the High Holidaze company, whose website describes it as a “professional tour operator with intimate knowledge of Johannesburg and its surroundings showing you the best the city has to offer and bringing you a unique curated Cannabis experience.”

“This is a time like no other,” says Achie Malaba, chair of the Gauteng Commercial Cannabis Funders Forum, an industry lobby in South Africa that calls for tax breaks on cannabis startups that are five years old and less.

“Many stars are aligning – we have hundreds in medicinal cannabis farm cultivation across the country, we recently shipped one of the world’s single largest cannabis harvests to Europe and now cannabis tourism, a profitable niche, is sprouting here in South Africa.”

Fantasy dreams

Despite Malaba’s optimism, observers say South Africa’s bid to overtake Amsterdam as the world’s cannabis tourism premier destination is still a fantasy unless the government comes to the party.

“South Africa can become the Las Vegas of cannabis tourism – only on paper,” Reja Habane, a former economist in the South Africa tourism ministry and now working as an independent advisor on foreign clients seeking to register companies in South Africa’s medicinal cannabis sector.

“The red tape to register a cannabis company and even get a reply on one’s application is 22 months; at whim police can confiscate commercial cannabis harvest if they suspect your licenses are not in order; and does anyone expect tourists from Canada to fly here, go on a cannabis farm tour, smoke fresh buds and be arrested and deported?”.

South Africa legalized cannabis following a 2018 landmark court ruling but as Cannabis Culture has reported over the years, its government is notorious for levying all sorts of obstacles for growers, users, and exporters.

“I laughed when I read that we can eclipse Amsterdam as the world’s cannabis tourism Mecca,” Dikeledi Matla, a veteran industry player in South Africa says. “The best we can do is to mimic Thailand and study the nice cannabis liberalization they have over there.”

Wealthy but disorganized 

South Africa is Africa’s wealthiest cannabis market, and her industry is valued at $1.5bn. The biggest exporters, cultivators, and sellers of cannabis cosmetics on the African continent are based in South Africa. Amsterdam, which is restricting a laissez-faire cannabis attitude in its world-famous Red Light district is a chance for South Africa to lure the tourists to her shores, says Slak Januz, a wine farmer who has started growing cannabis on his plot in Stellenbosch which is South Africa’s so-called ‘winelands’ region.

“Everything is here in South Africa – one of the world’s best coast lines, wine farms, a sunny weather and millions of tourists already coming. We could just cannabis tour packages on the go and snap those tourists already coming quickly – but our government seems to be working opposite to this dream,” he says.

“It would take us a lifetime to replace Amsterdam as the world’s best cannabis tourism market – but it’s a good start if National Geographic thinks we are worthy the competition,” adds Januz.

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