South Africa : new cannabis bill to be introduced

The Department of Agriculture, Land Reform and Rural Development has released a draft cannabis master plan. The aim is to turn cannabis into a viable business sector for the country.

The Cannabis for Private Purposes Bill into law should be signed within the 2022/2023 financial year.

The bill follows the landmark Constitutional Court judgement in September 2018 which stated that the use, possession and cultivation of cannabis in private dwellings was not illegal and should be allowed in South Africa.

Although the private use of cannabis has been decriminalized, the buying and selling of cannabis, oil and seeds remain illegal. 

The parliament has been given 24 months by the Constitutional Court from the date of the judgment to align the rule with the South African Laws. 

The draft bill states that an adult person may for personal use:

  • Possess the prescribed quantity of cannabis plant cultivation material;
  • Cultivate the prescribed quantity of cannabis plants in a private place;
  • Possess in private, the prescribed quantity of cannabis in a public place;
  • Possess the prescribed quantity of cannabis in a private place;

The bill defines a ‘private place’ as any place, including a building, house, room, shed, hut, tent, mobile home, caravan, boat or land or any portion thereof, to which the public does not have access as of right.

For private use, the limits include:

  • Unlimited seeds and seedlings;
  • Four flowering plants for those living alone, or eight for homes with two adults or more;
  • 600 grams of dried cannabis if you live alone, or 1.2 kilograms in homes with two or more adults;

Further clarity in regards to cannabis regulation is however needed. In fact, the bill doesn’t address most commercial aspects and opportunities of cannabis, said legal firm Cliffe Dekker Hofmeyr in an analysis of the draft bill. 

“Furthermore, by prohibiting the exchange of remuneration for cannabis, cannabis plants, seeds, and seedlings, the Bill envisages idealistic altruism while completely ignoring the commercial realities involved in growing, processing, and supplying cannabis for personal consumption.

“In practice, this amounts to self-defeating legislation, forcing the average person to obtain cannabis illicitly, reinforcing the existing black market, and depriving the economy of attainable tax income.”

The reality is that only a small part of the country has the opportunity to participate and benefit from the cannabis industry. Currently, the only commercial opportunities available concern farmers who can obtain a licence to either export their yield or supply it to a laboratory for the treatment, processing and manufacturing of cannabis-related products. 

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