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Breakthrough Moment! State Accepts Private Cannabis Clubs May Play Useful Role in Cannabis Reform Just Days Ahead of THC Case

Robbertse pivots on approach to PCC’s, now thinks they could be useful!

Senior State Law Advisor Sarel Robbertse says Private Cannabis Clubs (PCC’s) may be a good idea after all.  He told Parliament’s Justice and Correctional Services Portfolio Committee meeting on 31 May 2021 that PCC’s were “probably a mechanism that can be used to address the non-availability of private space”.

He was referring to one of the fundamental flaws in the Cannabis for Private Purposes Bill (CPPB), which discriminates against cannabis users who don’t have access to private property. Non-profit PCC’s may offer the State a solution to this constitutional conundrum as they could create private, safe consumption environments for non-property-owning users.

Robbertse, who is tasked with making the Bill constitutionally sound, said he recognized the validity of the PCC model, but was concerned they could be fronts for drug dealers. He said he was unapologetic for taking a narrow view of the Prince Judgement, which in his view was to limit cannabis consumption to private use and not to encourage the commercial trade therein. 

He had previously told Parliament that he had considered incorporating the PCC model into the Bill but that regulating this would be too much of a burden for the Department of Justice (DoJ), which he emphasized was not the right authority to be regulating the cannabis industry.

Robbertse will make new amendments to the Bill before it resurfaces in Parliament in August 2022.

State turnaround comes days before Cape High Court application to have PCC’s declared legal

However, several cannabis stakeholders have argued that the PCC model actually does Government’s work for it, notably a presentation by Marlene Theunnissen of Cradlestoned Solutions, who showed how PCC’s could play a role in “harms reduction” in future cannabis policy.

Robbertse’s turnaround on PCC’s comes at a crucial time as the Cape High Court is due to finally hear THC director Neil Liddell’s application to have PCC’s declared legal. The State is holding off on charging him for drug dealing until such time as the application is heard. Robbertse’s acceptance of PCC’s will certainly work in Liddell’s favour, when the Court meets on Monday morning, 6 June 2022.

There are an estimated 40 cannabis clubs operating in South Africa, most with the consent of the local constabulary, but there is no complete consensus yet on their legality. The Cape High Court decision on the THC case will be welcomed by PCC’s, which have found themselves caught between defending their constitutional rights and a criminal justice system that is still ambivalent about cannabis.

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