The Cannabis Bill has been given a ‘75 Tag’ which appears designed to fast-track it through the parliamentary process without having to open up a new round of public submissions.
Parliament’s Justice and Correctional Services Portfolio Committee finalized the Cannabis for Private Purposes Bill on 1 November 2023, having given it a Section 75 tag (in terms of Section 75 of the constitution) which means it does not affect the provinces.
According to the Parliamentary Monitoring Group a Section 75 Bill must be passed by the National Assembly and that the National Council of Provinces can merely rubber-stamp the law.
“An ordinary Bill that does not affect the provinces can only be introduced in the National Assembly (NA). Once it has been passed by the NA, it must be sent to the National Council of Provinces (NCOP).
“In this case, delegates in the NCOP vote individually and the Bill must be passed by a majority of delegates present. If the NCOP rejects a Bill or proposes its own amendments, the Bill is returned to the NA which will pass the Bill with or without taking into account the NCOP amendments or it may decide not to proceed with the Bill.
"The NCOP's role in Bills that do not affect the provinces is therefore a limited one. It can delay a Section 75 Bill, but it cannot prevent it from being passed.”
A legal source told Cannabiz Africa that it appeared the intention of tagging the Bill as a '75' instead of a ‘76’ (laws which affect the provinces) was to get the Bill passed as an Act as soon as possible – had it been tagged a ‘76’, the NCOP would have been obliged to open up new public hearings in all provinces.
The source said that by limiting the Bill to a ‘75’, it may also free up provinces to put in place their own cannabis legislation without being restricted by a national law.
The Parliamentary Committee said in a statement on 1 November 2023, that the Bill proposed to:
Respect the right to privacy of an adult person to use or possess cannabis;
Regulate the use or possession of cannabis by an adult person;
Provide for an alternative manner by which to address the issue of the prohibited use, possession of, or dealing in, cannabis by children, with due regard to the best interest of the child;
Prohibit the dealing in cannabis;
Provide for the expungement of criminal records of persons convicted of possession or use of cannabis or dealing in cannabis based on a presumption;
Amend provisions of certain laws; and
Provide for matters connected therewith.
The Bill places no restrictions on the amount of plants an individual can cultivate and has downgraded the penalties associated with cannabis. It makes no provision for commercial transactions and has introduced a new section relating to the protection of children.