Here are the new cannabis rules proposed for South Africa – including limits, penalties and criminal records

Justice and Correctional Services Minister Ronald Lamola

Justice and Correctional Services minister Ronald Lamola has published the draft Cannabis for Private Purposes Bill.

The bill will give effect to the Constitutional Court judgement that declared some parts of the Drugs and Drug Trafficking Act and Medicines and Related Substances Control Act unconstitutional.

In 2018, the Constitutional Court ruled that the use of cannabis is legal for both personal and medical use. However, it is currently still unlawful to use it outside of your private home, as well as buying and selling it.

The new draft bill outlines new 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.

These changes are outlined in more detail below.


New rules

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;
  • Cannabis.

Prescribed quantities 

The draft bill sets outs ‘prescribed quantities’ for both personal use and cultivation purposes.

For private use, the limits include:

  • Unlimited seeds and seedlings;
  • Four 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 100 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.


Offences and punishments

The bill also sets out a number of new offences for people that do not follow the above possession rules, as well as new rules around consumption.

Some of the most notable new offences include:

  • Any person who exceeds possession limits in a public place;
  • Any person who exceeds possession limits in a private place;
  • Any person who smokes cannabis in a public place;
  • Any person who smokes cannabis in the immediate presence of any non-consenting adult person;
  • Any person who smokes cannabis in the immediate presence of a child;
  • Any person who smokes cannabis in a private place near a window, ventilation inlet or doorway to or entrance into another place;
  • Any person who consumes cannabis in a vehicle on a public road.

The draft bill also sets out offences around cannabis use and children. This includes offences for guardians who allow their children to deal, possess or consume cannabis.

There are strict penalties for people who are found breaking the above offences, with the most egregious offenders facing a fine or imprisonment of up to 15 years.

The minimum penalty for an offence is a fine or two years in prison.


Criminal records expunged

While the draft bill introduces a number of new offences, it also makes specific provision for people who have been convicted on cannabis-related offences in the past.

These include:

  • Section 2(b) of the Abuse of Dependence-producing Substances and Rehabilitation Centres Act, in that the person used or possessed the dependence-producing drug or plant of cannabis;
  • Section 4(b) of the Drugs and Drug Trafficking Act, in that the person used or possessed the undesirable dependence-producing substance of cannabis;
  • Any law of the former Republics of Transkei, Bophuthatswana, Ciskei or Venda, or of any former self-governing territory, as provided for in the self-governing Territories Constitution Act before the commencement of the Constitution that criminalised the use or possession of cannabis.

In these cases, the criminal record, containing the conviction and sentence in question, of that person in respect of that offence must be expunged automatically by the Criminal Record Centre of the South African Police Service.Example Ad #2 (only visible for logged-in visitors)

If it is not expunged automatically, but should be in terms of the regulations, those with a criminal record can apply for expungement using the prescribed forms to the Director General: Justice and Constitutional Development.

You can read the full draft bill below.

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