Home South African Private use cannabis bill to be considered by National Assembly

Private use cannabis bill to be considered by National Assembly

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The bill for private use of cannabis will be considered in front of the National Assembly of South Africa on Tuesday, Parliament spokesperson Moloto Mothapho said.

The bill for private use of cannabis will be considered in front of the National Assembly on Tuesday. Picture: Supplied

THE CANNABIS for Private Purposes Bill is set for consideration by the National Assembly on Tuesday, after almost five years in the making since the 2018 Constitutional Court ruling was passed.

Parliament spokesperson Moloto Mothapo confirmed that it was gazetted on August 7, 2020, before being introduced to Parliament on September 1, 2020.

In 2018, the Constitutional Court of South Africa passed a ruling known as the Prince judgment that said the private use or possession of cannabis was deemed legal.

But since then, there have been a number of factors for lawmakers to consider, one of which, in particular, was how the new bill would affect children, according to Mothapo.

The effect the new bill could potentially have on children was the reason for delays in its passing.

The Portfolio Committee on Justice and Correctional Services is the department responsible for processing the private cannabis bill.

But the Department of Justice and Constitutional Development urged the committee to consider extending the scope of the bill to also accommodate considerations relating to the best interest of the child, Mothapo said.

“The bill as tabled and deliberated on by the committee up until its meeting on September 12, 2023, did not look beyond the adult-centred focus of the private-purpose use of cannabis.

“The Constitutional Court suspended the operation of the order of constitutional invalidity for a period of 24 months for Parliament to finalise the legislative reform process. The date by which the defect must be corrected by Parliament is September 28, 2024,” Mothapo said.

Regarding the commercialisation of the cannabis sector, Mothapo said the cannabis industry was identified by the South African government as one of 14 priority sectors to secure investment, job creation, and support for sustainable rural livelihoods.

The Parliament spokesperson said the committee was hopeful the bill would pave the way for the future of the industry.

“The committee hopes that the Bill paves the way, as a first step, for the development of legislation to address the regulation of cannabis for commercial purposes.

“The 2018 court ruling provided a reading-in provision that ensures that an adult will not be guilty of a criminal offence if they use, possess, or cultivate cannabis for their personal consumption in private, which continues to apply,” Mothapo said.

One of the major contributing factors to the 2018 ConCourt ruling was the efforts of Gareth Prince, after whom the ruling was named.

Prince, according to Cliff Dekker Hofmeyr, is a practising Rastafarian and holder of a law degree who lives in Cape Town.

His legal battle against the system started when he was denied admittance as an attorney due to two previous criminal convictions for possession of cannabis.

In 1998 and 2002, Prince was unsuccessful in his endeavour to get the ConCourt to rule in his favour.

Since then, the high court has ruled in favour of individuals who challenged the constitutionality of some provisions of the Drugs Act and Medicines Act.

The high court found that the Drugs Act and Medicines Act’s legislative provisions limited the right to privacy without proper justification.

This ruling was then referred to the ConCourt.

“The court found that the criminalisation of cannabis (and its history) was characterised by racism and that many indigenous South Africans used cannabis. The court also found that the alleged harm of cannabis was not as severe as historically argued. It also makes little sense to allow the use and possession of alcohol and tobacco and criminalise cannabis,” Cliffe Dekker Hofmeyr wrote.

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