Government could expunge dagga-related criminal records

The Department of Justice is working on new laws around the legalisation of cannabis in South Africa, and is considering amendments to expunge the criminal records of people who have been caught using the drug in the past.

This is according to justice and correctional services minister, Ronald Lamola, during a recent parliamentary Q&A session, the City Press reported.

Lamola said that this amnesty will only apply to people who have paid an admission of guilt fine, and not to those who have previously appeared in court.

He added that there are currently 1,041 people across the country who are currently serving jail time for the possession of cannabis.

These people who have to apply to president Cyril Ramaphosa for pardons, and the department is willing to help them, he said.


In September 2018, the Constitutional Court ruled that it is not a criminal offence for an adult citizen to use, possess or grow cannabis in private for personal consumption.

The court gave parliament 24 months from the date of the judgment to bring the ruling in line with South African laws, with a new bill expected to be released soon.

Until some of the many grey areas in the regulation of cannabis have been clarified, Julie Oppenheim, a partner at law firm Bowmans, outlined the basic legal position on cannabis in South Africa as follows:

  • You may use it for your personal recreational or medicinal use, alone or with friends and family over the age of 18, in spaces not open to groups other than your own.
  • Grow only as much as necessary for your personal use; where unsure, rather be conservative.
  • Other than in the case of specific health supplements and processed hemp fibre detailed above, buying and selling cannabis or any cannabis-containing product is currently not legally permissible.

Read: Here’s what happens if South African employees test positive for weed at work

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Government could expunge dagga-related criminal records