The radically reworked Cannabis for Private Purposes Bill has been opened up for public comment until 11 May 2022. The new version of the Bill includes two new sections compared to the last time it was aired in Parliament in November last year.
The main amendments are:
- A section that enables the future commercial trade in cannabis;
- Special provisions for the Rastafarian, and other religious communities, including the right to smoke communally in public;
- Exemptions for people with medical cannabis prescriptions;
- An increase in the amount of plants a person may grow at home – up from four to eight;
- Double the amount of cannabis an adult may possess in public to 200 grams;
- A reduction in the prescribed jail time for people who grow too much cannabis at home from 15 years to 8 years.
The National Assembly approved of the amendments to the Bill on 31 March and it has now been opened for a second round of comment.
As of 29 April 2022, over 2 000 submissions had been made.
The Bill has been radically transformed since the Department of Trade and Industry became involved in the legislative drafting after the President’s SONA.. Senior State Law advisor Sarel Robbertse told Parliament in March this year the inclusion of the commercial trade clause would put South Africa in breach of its international legal obligations. Nonetheless, the clause was rammed in despite his protestations.
The Bill basically enables future legislation to legalize cannabis without doing that now.
The other surprise in the redrafted Bill is the definition of cannabis as C sativa with a THC level of 0,2%. Hemp stakeholders have been unanimous in their call for the level to be set at 1% because South Africa’s climate causes a “spike” in THC levels. Government’s own agronomists have shown that it is difficult to grow cannabis with any consistency at THC levels of below 0,2%, and the consensus is that the consumption of cannabis with THC levels of up to five percent does not cause any psychoactive reaction.
The new draft bill outlines possession rules for cannabis users at the home as well as for people who wish to cultivate the plant. It also introduces new offences, as well as provisions for people who previously received a criminal record for cannabis possession.
The draft 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;
The draft bill sets outs ‘prescribed quantities’ for both personal use and cultivation purposes.
For private use, the limits include:
- Unlimited seeds and seedlings;
- Eight flowering plants for those living alone, or eight for homes with two adults or more;
- 600 grams of dried cannabis if you live alone, or 1.2 kilograms in homes with two or more adults;
- 1.2 kilograms dried cannabis or cannabis equivalent per dwelling which is occupied by two or more adult persons.
The bill also allows for the possession of cannabis ‘in private’ in a public place, but this is limited to 200 grams.
The draft bill defines ‘in private’ as to keep, store, transport or be in control of cannabis or a cannabis plant, respectively, in a manner that conceals it from public view.