New laws for cannabis in South Africa

 ·30 May 2024

Late on the eve of what is anticipated to be a hotly contested general elections, President Cyril Ramaphosa signed the Cannabis for Private Purposes Act (CfPPA) into law.

Broadly, the CfPPA regulates and eases the limitations on the cultivation, possession, and use of cannabis by adults in a private setting, and looks to support the industrial growth of the cannabis sector, while prohibiting the dealing in cannabis.

Drugs and Drug Trafficking Control Act changes

“The consequent regulatory reform enabled by the CfPPA will, amongst others, entirely remove cannabis from the Drugs and Drug Trafficking Act (DDTA),” said the Presidency in a statement.

Back in 2018, the Constitutional Court upheld a ruling which found that sections of the DDTA were unconstitutional, leading the way to the decriminalisation of private cannabis use in South Africa.

Altair Richards, an executive at ENS’ Corporate Commercial Practice, told BusinessTech earlier this year that the appropriate amendments to the DDTA had still not been made to align with the 2018 Constitutional Court judgement.

Up until late on 28 May 2024, the Drugs and Drug Trafficking Control Act provided the following:

“No person shall use or have in his possession— any dangerous dependence-producing substance or any undesirable dependence-producing substance…” which included “cannabis (dagga), the whole plant or any portion or product thereof, except dronabinol [(-)-transdelta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol].

Schedule changes

The adjustments, which removes cannabis from the DDTA, will also enable modifications to be made to the schedules within the Medicines and Related Substances Act.

Recently, cannabis products, including those for human consumption, were reclassified.

Ramon Pereira from Adams & Adams laws firm explained that CBD was reclassified as a Schedule 4, but products with up to 600mg CBD and a daily dose under 20mg are unregulated Schedule 0, as are products with natural CBD levels up to 0.0075%.

THC was amended to Schedule 6, except for private adult use of the plant or its derivatives and if they have/claim no pharmacological action or medicinal purpose.

Schedule 6 and Schedule 7 are narcotics and other controlled substances and poisons like morphine and heroine. These are not easy to access and, according to South Africa’s Medical Society, “are only used in extreme cases”.

It is important to note that if cannabis products claim any medicinal benefits, they face regulatory conditions.

Eyeing to grow the industrial cannabis sector

The newly accented act “will also facilitate targeted reforms in regulatory frameworks such as the Plant Breeders Rights Act and the Plant Improvement Act,” said the Presdidency.

This, along with other necessary legislative changes, aims to support the industrial growth of the cannabis sector in South Africa.

Back in 2021, South Africa released a National Cannabis Master Plan, outlining that the formal cannabis industry would be a game-changer for the country’s economy – as the industry that is predominantly operated underground and traded on the black market is currently worth an estimated R28 billion.

In 2022, Ramaphosa said that the sector has the potential to create more than 130,000 new jobs.

His plan released three years ago said that it would focus on integrating small growers into formal cannabis value chains and addresses licensing, technical and financial support.

Up until the signing of the Act in the 11th hour of the sixth administration, the slow pace of legislative progress resulted in several hurdles for businesses seeking to enter the market legally.

Children and marijuana

The Bill further guides the medically prescribed administration of cannabis to a child while also protecting children from undue exposure to cannabis.

“It provides for an alternative manner by which to address the issue of the prohibited use, possession of, or dealing in, cannabis by children, with due regard to the best interest of the child,” said the Presidency.

Read: Government leaves cannabis farmers high and dry in South Africa

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