Updated cannabis laws planned for South Africa

The Congress of South African Trade Unions (Cosatu) says it supports the legalisation of cannabis for private, commercial and medical use in South Africa.

Presenting its submission on the Cannabis for Private Purposes Bill to parliament on Tuesday (24 May), the country’s largest trade federation is one of a number of parties scheduled to give submissions on the updated bill.

The draft bill, which was originally published for public comment in September 2020, outlines possession rules for cannabis users at home and people who wish to cultivate the plant.

While the main focus of the bill remains on the private use of cannabis, parliament has extended the subject of the bill to:

  • Provide for commercial activities in respect of recreational cannabis;
  • Provide for the cultivation, possession and supply of cannabis plants and cannabis by organisations for religious and cultural purposes on behalf of their members; and
  • Respect the right to privacy of an adult person to use cannabis for palliation or medication.

With the national assembly approving these additions on 31 March, the bill is now being considered in a second round of public participation meetings.

While Cosatu said it broadly supports the objectives of the bill, it noted that more work still needs to be done on the draft bill as it was ‘unrealistically bureaucratic and cumbersome’ in some regards.

It added that there are elements of the bill that are still too restrictive and do not go far enough in decriminalising cannabis use in the country – pointing specifically to the use of cannabis for religious purposes and the additional regulations placed on monitoring people who use cannabis.

Decriminalisation

The original draft bill outlines possession rules for cannabis users at home and people who wish to cultivate the plant. It also introduces new offences and provisions for people who previously received a criminal record for cannabis possession.

The 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;
  • Possess in private the prescribed quantity of cannabis plants in a public 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.

The draft legislation also states that an adult person may, without the exchange of remuneration provide to, or obtain from, another adult person, for personal use the prescribed quantity of:

  • Cannabis plant cultivation material;
  • Cannabis plants;
  • Cannabis.

Read: Stricter ‘transformation’ rules for South Africa get the green light

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Updated cannabis laws planned for South Africa