In a significant stride towards cannabis reform, the National Assembly of South Africa has given its nod to a bill permitting personal cannabis use. The groundbreaking measure, initially proposed in 2018 following the Constitutional Court’s decision to decriminalize private cannabis use, marks a pivotal moment in the country’s approach to cannabis legislation.
During the recent session, Member of Parliament Janho Engelbrecht highlighted a crucial aspect of the approved measure: while it grants the freedom for personal cannabis use, it stops short of legalizing cannabis sales. As per the new legislation, individuals keen on consuming cannabis legally must resort to growing it themselves.
Notably, the bill includes provisions for the expungement of criminal records for individuals previously convicted of cannabis-related offenses, encompassing possession, use, or dealing based on presumption. However, the legislation does not explicitly outline the allowable quantities of cannabis plants or dried cannabis for personal use.
It’s crucial to point out that, as it stands, the bill does not extend legalization to cannabis for medical purposes. This distinction leaves room for potential future developments in medical cannabis legislation.
Moloto Mothapo, a spokesperson for Parliament on this matter, hinted at the possibility of the bill paving the way for a broader commercialization of cannabis. The South African government has identified the cannabis industry as one of 14 priority sectors for securing investment, job creation, and support for sustainable rural livelihoods. This forward-looking perspective aligns with global trends recognizing the economic potential of the cannabis market.
The roots of this legislative movement trace back to a 2017 ruling by the Western Cape Town High Court. The court declared it unconstitutional to prohibit cannabis use by adults in private homes. This landmark decision resulted from a case filed by Dagga Party leader Jeremy Acton and Rastafarian Garreth Prince, who argued that certain sections of the Drug Trafficking and Medicines Control acts were discriminatory, outdated, or unfairly applied, disproportionately affecting Black individuals.
The Constitutional Court upheld this ruling in the subsequent year, mandating the government to approve an appropriate cannabis bill by September 28, 2024. The recent approval by the National Assembly aligns with this directive, marking progress towards meeting the court’s deadline.
As the bill now advances to the National Council of Provinces for concurrence, South Africa is on the cusp of a transformative shift in its cannabis landscape. The implications extend beyond personal use, potentially opening the door to a more robust cannabis industry that aligns with the country’s economic priorities. It’s a momentous juncture that underscores South Africa’s commitment to adapting its cannabis laws to reflect a more inclusive and forward-thinking perspective.