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Just Another Brics in the Wall: No Hope For Cannabis Alignment in Bulked Up Grouping

Just Another Brics in the Wall: No Hope For Cannabis Alignment in Bulked Up Grouping

The newly bulked up BRICS grouping may be the beginning of a newish world order, but there’s no possibility of this being a cannabis reform initiative as there are unbridgeable differences between the member states as to their views on the plant.

Cannabiz Africa/Wikipedia

25 August 2023 at 13:00:00

With South Africa’s successful hosting of the BRICS summit in Sandton this week, and the addition of new members to the bloc, Cannabiz Africa looks at each country’s approach to cannabis and can say with certainty that there is NOT going to be any unanimity within BRICS around cannabis policy. The information below is largely drawn from Wikipedia.


Cannabis in Brazil is illegal and criminalized, but possession and cultivation of personal amounts and for private use were de-penalized in 2006.  Use of cannabis medications is allowed for terminally ill patients or those who have exhausted other treatment options. It is also possible to import, manufacture and sell cannabis-based medicines.

Since 2015, cannabis medications greater than 0.2% THC can be prescribed for terminally ill patients or those who have exhausted other treatment options. Initially these medications could only be imported with special authorization from Anvisa, but in 2019 the rules were relaxed to allow pharmacy sales. Products less than 0.2% THC can be prescribed with less restriction.

In January 2017 Brazil issued its first license for a cannabis-based medicine, allowing sales of Mevatyl oral spray (internationally known as Sativex).

In March 2020, the State of Pernambuco issued the first national license for the homemade planting of marijuana for medicinal purposes.

Since 2006, public use of cannabis entails a warning, community service and education on the effects of drug use. The same measures apply to public use of any illegal drug. However, there are reports of municipal guards applying extrajudicial punishment to civilian use of cannabis.

Selling, transportation, and trafficking of drugs are considered criminal acts and are punished with 5 to 15 years in prison and a significant fine.


Cannabis in Russia is illegal. Possession of up to 6 grams (or two grams of hashish) is an administrative offense, punishable by a fine or detention of 15 days. Possession of larger amounts is a criminal offense.

The following penalties apply to conviction for large-scale possession:

· Fine of 40,000 rubles.

· 480 hours of compulsory labor or 2 years of corrective labor.

· Up to three years in prison or restricted freedom.

In August 2022, the American basketball player Brittney Griner was sentenced to nine years in prison for smuggling 0.7 grams of cannabis oil into Russia in her luggage in February 2022. She was released in December 2022 in exchange for Russian arms dealer Viktor Bout.

Another American citizen, Marc Fogel, was sentenced to 14 years in prison in June 2022 for smuggling 14 vape cartridges and a small amount of cannabis flower into Russia in August 2021.


In the world history of cannabis, few countries appear as prominently as India. Cannabis use is mentioned in religious texts stretching back thousands of years, and it has a time-honored place in traditional Indian medicine and religious practice.

Despite that rich and storied history, cannabis remains illegal in India, though the country does allow certain preparations of cannabis (such as the traditional beverage bhang) and individual states are allowed to adjudicate their own regulations on cannabis

Although cannabis has a cherished place in Indian traditional medicine, including in Ayurvedic practices, India does not have a legal, state-run medical marijuana program.

Cannabis became illegal under India’s Narcotic Drugs and Psychotropic Substances Act of 1985. The act states that the penalties for cultivation of cannabis can be a sentence of up to ten years imprisonment. For the production, manufacture, possession, sale, transport or import of small quantities of cannabis, the penalty can be up to a year imprisonment or a fine of up to ten thousand rupees ($134).

If the quantity of cannabis is “lesser than commercial quantity but greater than small quantity,” the improvement may extend up to ten years and a fine of up to 100,000 Rupees ($1,348). For commercial quantities, the penalty can stretch from a minimum of ten years up to 20 years, and a fine of up to 200,000 Rupees.

The act defines cannabis as charas (resin removed from the cannabis plant and generally smoked, similar to hashish), ganja (cannabis flower), and any mixture of the above forms or any drink made by mixing them. The law does not include the seeds and leaves of the cannabis plant “when separated from the flower,” allowing for the legal preparation of the cannabis-derived traditional drink bhang.

The law does however allow individual state governments to permit and regulate “the cultivation of any cannabis plant, production, manufacture, possession, transport, import inter-State, export inter-State, sale, purchase, consumption or use of cannabis (excluding charas).”

India does not have a recognized, legal state program that regulates or provides medical cannabis to certified patients. Such individuals can use approved cannabis preparations like bhang that are not banned by India’s anti-drug laws.

Under India’s alternative herbal medical treatment system called Ayurveda, medicines containing extract from leaves can be prescribed to patients for a variety of ailments including insomnia, diarrhea, muscle pains, anxiety and more.

This has opened avenues for full spectrum CBD oils to be sold on prescription, however at a premium price. The tinctures and oils can be ordered via mail as well as purchased from local ayurvedic pharmacies.

Smokeable flower or resin remains illegal nationwide.


Cannabis in China is illegal except for industrial purposes (hemp) and some forms of medicine. Historically, cannabis has been used in China for fiber, seeds, as a traditional medicine, as well as for some ritual purposes within Taoism.

In 1985, the People's Republic of China joined the Convention on Psychotropic Substances and identified marijuana as a dangerous narcotic drug, and illegal to possess or use it. The penalty for marijuana possession in China is disputed from various sources, but according to the Law on Public Security Administration Punishments, marijuana smokers shall be detained for 10 to 15 days and fined a maximum of 2,000 yuan. However, the cultivation of cannabis for industrial purposes (hemp) has never been prohibited in China.

On another hand, cannabis seeds have been continuously listed in the Chinese Pharmacopeia and hemp has never been prohibited in the history of the country.

South Africa

Cannabis in South Africa has been decriminalised by the country's Constitutional Court for personal consumption by adults in private. However, laws prohibiting use outside of one's private dwelling and buying and selling cannabis still remain. Since regulations against the purchase of products containing cannabis still remain in effect, it is unclear how the ruling can be enforced.

On 31 March 2017, in a case brought by Gareth Prince, Jeremy Acton, and Jonathan Rubin before the Western Cape High Court, presiding Judge Dennis Davis ruled that any law disallowing the use and cultivation of cannabis by an adult in a private dwelling was unconstitutional and therefore invalid, on the grounds that such infringement of the constitutional right to privacy could not be justified. 

However due to appeals from the state, this decision needed to be confirmed by the Constitutional Court before taking effect. The court also ruled that, in the interim, prosecutions related to the transgression of the laws in question should be stayed. The judge further ordered that “it will be deemed to be a defence that the use, possession, purchase or cultivation of cannabis in a private dwelling is for the personal consumption of the adult accused”. 

The Central Drug Authority's chairperson David Bayever encouraged the Department of Social Development to appeal the ruling, citing concerns about the possibility of an increase in road accidents, and the difficulty in limiting children's exposure to the drug. After hearing all appeals in the Constitutional Court during the month of November 2017, the panel announced their decision to reserve judgment in the matter until further notice.

After announcing their decision to rule on the matter, the full panel of judges convened on 18 September 2018 at the Constitutional Court in Johannesburg with Chief Justice Raymond Zondo reading out what he described as a unanimous decision. In his ruling it was stated:

· An adult person may, [sic] use or be in possession of cannabis in private for his or her personal consumption in private.

· The use, including smoking, of cannabis in public or in the presence of children or in the presence of non-consenting adult persons is not permitted.

· The use or possession of cannabis in private other than by an adult for his or her personal consumption is not permitted.

· The cultivation of cannabis by an adult in a private place for his or her personal consumption in private is no longer a criminal offense.

He placed no limits on quantities that adults would be allowed to carry, consume or grow and said that it would be up to parliament to decide once a bill was drawn up to accommodate these recommended changes. The government has been given a period of 24 months to implement the landmark ruling's findings.

The 2020 Cannabis for Private Purposes Bill has proposed limits on the personal cultivation, possession, sharing and use of cannabis by adults and in private (out of sight). It makes provision for publicly possessing as well as gifting (without any exchange of remuneration) cannabis plants, seeds/seedlings and dried flowers, or the equivalents thereof. It also depicts what quantities will be considered as trafficable and commercial offences, leading to fines and/or up to 6-years and 15-years imprisonment, respectively. It has yet to be approved by parliament and signed into law.

New entrants into BRICS:


Cannabis in Argentina is decriminalized for personal use in small amounts and for consumption in private locations, the Supreme Court ruled in 2009.

Public consumption is generally accepted among young adults. Consumption for medical purposes is accepted but not legislated (only in private locations). Cultivating, selling and transporting large amounts is illegal and punishable by present laws.

Medical cannabis has been legal in Chubut since September 23, 2016, and in Santa Fe since November 30, 2016.

On March 29, 2017, the Argentine senate approved the medical use of CBD cannabis oil, and was promulgated on September 21, 2017.] On 12 November 2020, President Alberto Fernández signed a decree legalizing the self-cultivation and regulating the sales and subsidized access of medical cannabis, expanding upon the 2017 bill.


Cannabis in Egypt is illegal, however it is widely used but not publicly. Law enforcements are often particularly lax when it comes to cannabis smokers. Also, its use is a part of the common culture in the country for many people. Large-scale smuggling of cannabis is punishable by death, while penalties for possessing even small amounts can also be severe.  Despite this, these laws are not enforced in many parts of Egypt, where cannabis is often consumed openly in local cafes.


Cannabis in Ethiopia is illegal, and possession of cannabis can result in up to 6 months imprisonment.

Smoking pipes uncovered in Ethiopia and carbon-dated to around 1320 CE were found to have traces of cannabis.

In the 1960s, Rastafari immigrants from the Caribbean began to settle on land near Shashamane which had been set aside for them by Emperor Haile Selassie I. Subsequently, Shashamane has become known for its cannabis cultivation, largely meant for local consumption.


Cannabis in Iran is illegal, but the law is often not strictly enforced. The use of cannabis has become increasingly popular in Iranian cities according to various reports, although the government does not keep official usage statistics.

In 1989 the Iranian government enacted a law providing the death penalty for possession of hashish in excess of five kilograms.

Saudi Arabia

The use and possession of cannabis is strictly illegal in the country of Saudi Arabia. Use and possession for personal use of any kind of recreational drugs is most of the time punishable by imprisonment if caught. For foreign citizens, there would generally be more leniency. Imprisonment for personal use of cannabis could go up to 1 to 6 months in prison with or without whippings for first time offenders. Imprisonment for drug dealing can range between 2 and 10 years in prison with whippings. Repeated dealing and or smuggling of large amounts of drugs usually result in harsher time in prison or can even include the death penalty, although recent executions are very rare. Foreigners who use cannabis could be deported.

In 2003, the UNODC rated Saudi Arabia as third globally in its measures to fight drug abuse and trafficking.

Hashish in Saudi Arabia is largely trafficked by sea from Pakistan; a 2007 report notes that hashish sold for US$2,130 per kilogram.

United Arab Emirates

New legislation outlined in UAE Official Gazette coming into effect on January 2 2022. In which carrying food, drinks or any other products which contains marijuana, hashish or THC, found has to be destroyed.

The UAE is not a significant cannabis producer or consumer, but is a major transshipment point for cannabis from Pakistan and Afghanistan, due to its free ports and heterogeneous population.


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