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DoJ Intent on Pushing Through Narrowly-Defined Cannabis for Private Purposes Bill, But Leaves Door Open for Future Adult-Use Legislation

Private Purposes Bill to be amended to pass constitutional muster

The Department of Justice (DoJ) intends pushing through the Cannabis for Private Purposes Bill (CPPB), with certain ammendments, to try and make it pass constitutional muster. It has stuck to a narrow definition of its mandate saying the Bill was being drawn up to regulate the private use of cannabis and protect children, and that commercial considerations were beyond its ambit.


Criminal sanction still necessary

Senior state law advisor Sarel Robbertze briefed the Parliamentary Justice and Correctional Services Portfolio Committee on 23 November 2021 on government responses to the public submissions on the Bill made earlier this year.  He said the Department was taking its guidelines from the Prince Judgement, which allowed for private use of cannabis but not for trade therein, and was also wary of breaking any of its obligations to international drug treaties. He said the Bill would restrict any cultivation if it was unlicensed or not in a private space for own consumption and that criminal sanctions were necessary to enforce this.

However, Robbertze left a wide door open for cannabis reform, saying that Section 1.2 of the Bill allowed for other legislation to be passed, for instance the legalization of adult-use cannabis, use by traditional healers and Rastafarians and it’s definition as an agricultural crop.


Robbertze: ‘No rule says we have to consult the public’

Robbertze said the decision to decriminalize cannabis was “the correct one”. “It is not appropriate from a human rights perspective to incarcerate persons who use cannabis, give them criminal records and waste state resources” he said. However, he said criminal sactions were still necessary in the Bill to enforce compliance.

He also defended the Department against criticism that the public was not consulted in the drafting of the Bill. “It is usually preferable to make the Bill available for public comment beforehand” said Robbertze, “but there’s no rule that says we have to consult”.

Robertze said the commercialization of cannabis was outside the realm of the CPPB. “There were submissions that legal cannabis may be used to stimulate the economy, but I must remark again that the Department of Justice cannot promote such legislation that provides for commercial activities relating to cannabis since other departments are responsible therefore.

“Again I must point out that Clause 1.2 of the Bill may provide for other legislation that allows the commercialisation of cannabis for recreational purposes”.


Bill does not cater for Rastas, but they may get religious exemption to consume cannabis.

He said criticism that the Bill infringed on cultural practices was not the Department of Justice’s problem. “There are other departments who must bring forward the appropriate legislation, and that the Traditional Practices Act would need to be amended.

Robertze said the Bill “does not cater for Rastas”. He said that while the Constitution upheld religious freedom, there were limitations on that freedom and that consumption of high THC cannabis was one such limitation.  

“But on the basis of the Prince Judgement there may be grounds for religious exemption in the Bill and that should be considered in the final draft” said Robbertze, pointing out that there was international precedent of this in Jamaica.

He said the Bill contained measures to ensure there was no large-scale illegal dealing in cannabis and it had to protect children.

“This bill aims to regulate the private use of cannabis. Criminalization is necessary to ensure compliance with regulatory measures, and that is to protect others against harm”.

He said the committee had considered making cannabis possession a “non-criminal” offence, but he said the Criminal Procedures Act did not cater for this.

He said the Department’s definition of cannabis included the flowers and leaves of the plant but not the seeds or the stalk of the plant.

2 Responses

  1. what nonsense is this trying to exclude the custodians of Cannabis in South Africa?

    You wish to continue arresting and persecuting Rastafari on this level….now???? are you serious? this is the last stalwart of apartheid and you are facilitating these evil laws so that clicks dischem etc can carry on selling our holy herb for which we have been properly persecuted and downtrodden for in this country? Is this seriously your answer to legalization attempts?

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