South Africa Proposes New Cannabis Bill

The draft cannabis master plan aiming to transform marijuana into a viable South African business sector has been released by the Department of Agriculture, Land Reform, and Rural Development.

The signing of the Cannabis for Private Purposes Bill into law during the fiscal year 2022/2023 is among the master plan’s priority list. This comes after a landmark Constitutional Court ruling in September 2018 that stated that the use, possession, and cultivation of cannabis in private residences is not illegal and should be permitted in South Africa.

Moving Cannabis Forward

Buying and selling cannabis, cannabis oil, and cannabis seeds remains illegal, despite the fact that private possession of cannabis has been decriminalized.

Parliament has 24 months from the date of the judgment to put the decision into compliance with South African rule, according to the Constitutional Court. The Cannabis for Private Purposes Bill was created in response to the Constitutional Court’s concerns.

The government initially released the draft Cannabis for Private Purposes Bill for public consultation in September 2020. The proposed draft bill establishes cannabis possession laws for both home consumers and those who choose to grow the plant. It also creates additional offenses and protections for people who have already been convicted of cannabis possession.

Proposed Regulations

According to the bill, any adult person may:

  • 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; and
  • possess in private, the prescribed quantity of cannabis plants in a public place.

The act also states that an adult may privately consume the prescribed quantity of cannabis, as well as provide to and/or obtain from another person so long as no remuneration is exchanged.

A “private place” is defined by the bill as most any structure, vessel, or location closed off from public access.

“In private” is defined as handling or retaining the cannabis item or plant “in a manner that conceals it from public view.”

A “prescribed quantity” is defined by the bill as:

  • 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;
  • 1.2 kilograms dried cannabis or cannabis equivalent per dwelling which is occupied by two or more adult persons.

A Call for Clarity

Although more clarification on cannabis is generally welcomed in South Africa, legal experts have cautioned that the draft bill raises many red flags. In an analysis of the bill, legal firm Cliff Dekker Hofmeyr cautioned that “The focus remains on restricting access to, and the use of, cannabis against the threat of rather severe legal consequences in the form of fines and jail time.” That is as compared to the industry’s hope of a joint collaboration by “the various departments such as Health, Agriculture, and Finance, and the like.”

According to Cliffe Dekker Hofmeyr, the bill’s drafters seem to have followed a “narrow and traditionalist” viewpoint, which, as written, only meets the minimum of the Constitutional Court’s mandate.

The bill’s inability to mention most economic dimensions and prospects of cannabis, according to the company, is perhaps the most conspicuous of all the omissions. Cliff Dekker Hofmeyr states that the bill essentially ignores the potential gains from turning cannabis into an industrial sector in its effort to curb any attempts at remunerated exchange

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

As of now, commercial applications are confined to farmers having to choose between exportation or selling to laboratories with the requisite permits for processing cannabis; far too limiting to be of any use to the country at large.