It’s there in black and white. The latest version of the Cannabis for Private Purposes Bill states unequivocally: “Commercial activities in respect of cannabis 10. (1) Subject to subsection (2), commercial activities in respect of [recreational] cannabis are hereby authorised. (2) National legislation must be enacted to authorise and regulate commercial activities in respect of cannabis”.
The Cannabis for Private Purposes Bill (CPPB) is up for public comment until the end of the month. It has been significantly panel-beaten to incorporate traditional growers by expanding the definition of private property to include communal land and it makes allowance for the expungement of criminal records of minor cannabis offences.
The wording of the Bill signals the State’s intentions to drop cannabis from the Drugs and Drug Trafficking Act of 2022 and to open up the way for future commercial trade in cannabis and related products. Although it remains rooted in a prohibitionist mindset, the Bill envisages a progressive evolution of the South African cannabis industry albeit with strict controls.
The Bill states:
“CANNABIS COMMERCIAL ACTIVITIES
Commercial activities in respect of cannabis
10. (1) Subject to subsection (2), commercial activities in respect of [recreational] cannabis are hereby authorised.
(2) National legislation must be enacted to authorise and regulate commercial activities in respect of cannabis.
(3) Without limiting the scope of national legislation contemplated in subsection (2), due consideration should be given to—
(a) harm reduction;
(b) demand reduction;
(c) public education and awareness campaigns in respect of the harms associated with cannabis smoking and consumption;
(d) the prevention of persons under the age of 18 years to access cannabis;
(e) the prohibition or restriction of advertising or promotion of cannabis;
(f) population level monitoring of use and associated harms of cannabis smoking and consumption; and
(g) reasonable measures to accommodate cannabis for cultural or religious purposes.
(4) For purposes of this section, "commercial activities" means any activity relating to cannabis plant cultivation material, cannabis plants, cannabis or cannabis products, which is authorised and regulated in terms of national legislation contemplated in subsection (2.)”
With cannabis being removed from the Drug Trafficking Act, the Cannabis for Private Purposes Act, which is likely to be passed into law in the next few months, will be the defining legislation regulating cannabis and the four envisaged levels of transgression. The Bill is likely to continue to attract severe criticism from industry stakeholders as it remains riddled with contradictions (communal land is private property? How do we get our seeds for our constitutionally-granted right to grow cannabis?).
Cannabiz Africa believes it would be appropriate for the Bill to be withdrawn in its entirety and replaced with the draft legislation drawn up by the National Cannabis Master Plan Private Sector Working Group. The hard yards have been covered by the best cannabis legal minds in the country and has the endorsement of presidential cannabis advisor Garth Strachan who is learning a new definition of the word “uphill” in his attempts to align the different Government departments affected by cannbis legalization.
The likes of Cullinan and Associates, Webber Wentzel, Schindlers, FGFA, Gareth Prince, Ayanda Bam, Ricky Stone and Michael Kiechel have voluntarily contributed precious time in trying to navigate a sensible legislative pathway for cannabis legalization and have put to shame the hollow and clumsy efforts of state lawyers who are clearly out of their conceptual depth.
The main flaw in the Bill is that cannabis remains within the remit of the criminal justice cluster, which as we all know is rotten to the core. There are positive signs that there is an ideological shift underway, as evidenced by the formation of the Southern and East African Drugs Policy initiative that seeks to alleviate punishment on end users and concentrate rather on clamping down on hard drug traffickers.
However, the Justice Department is essentially prohibitionist and still has to be pulled into line in terms of understanding the economic potential of the plant. Bearing in mind its international obligations around legislating for domestic adult-use consumption, which is clearly the next frontier, Justice Minister Ronald Lamola is not up to the task. Although he’s a staunch political supporter of the President (and hell, we know the Pres needs all the support he can get), Lamola is a young buck steeped in Christian conservatism trying to navigate his way through the Gangster State. Cannabis legalization is not one of his priorities, but that’s his issue not ours.
It is clear that cannabis reform is going to be driven by non-government stakeholders. The pressure needs to be sustained as the economic imperative is there and cannabis can deliver, at the end of the day, probably more jobs than the Government even imagines, if the full value chain is unlocked and the criminal justice system is shown the door.