What’s the latest on using cannabis?

“It has been nearly two years since all the hype in the media about the use of cannabis. Yet nothing has changed and it seems like the status quo is still ongoing. Am I wrong in my view on this?”

You are correct in that it has been two years since the Constitutional Court handed down its landmark judgement finding that certain sections of the Drugs and Drug Trafficking Act as well as the Medicines and Related Substances Control Act were unconstitutional on the basis that they denied adult persons the right to possess, use or cultivate cannabis in a private place for that person’s own personal consumption in private. Although the Court made it permissible for adult persons to possess, use or cultivate cannabis in a private place for that person’s own personal consumption in private, the legislation surrounding the regulation of cannabis still had to be developed by the legislature. 

Now finally, Government has brought the Cannabis for Private Purposes Bill before Parliament. The Bill confirms the right of adult persons to possess, cultivate, smoke and consume cannabis in a private place and for personal consumption and seeks to regulate the possession of cannabis (in all its forms) by prescribing quantities that individuals are allowed to possess. 

The Bill proposes to do so as follows: 

  • An adult person may possess an unlimited amount of cannabis seeds and seedlings.
  • If you live or occupy a dwelling alone, you are permitted to cultivate four cannabis plants or equivalent per adult person and/or have 600 grams of dried cannabis per person in the dwelling used for residential purposes.
  • Should the dwelling be occupied by more than two adult persons then they are permitted to cultivate eight cannabis plants or equivalent per dwelling and/or have 1200 grams of dried cannabis per dwelling.
  • An adult person may have in their private possession 100 grams of dried cannabis in a public space.
  • An adult person may carry on cannabis plant when in a public space.
  • Adult persons may provide each other with, and for personal use, 30 cannabis seeds and/or one cannabis plant and/or 100 grams of cannabis. This is subject to the fact that no form of compensation, gift, reward, benefit or favour should be exchanged.

A transgression of any of these conditions will result in one having committed a Class A, B, C or D offence, with Class D offences having the lightest sentences and Class A attracting the harshest sentences. The sale of cannabis in any of its forms remains prohibited, unless by authorised medical practitioners and for medicinal use.

In order to protect minors and persons who are not cannabis smokers, the Bill criminalises any public smoking or consumption of cannabis, any private smoking or consumption in the immediate presence of children or non-consenting adults, any private smoking or consumption near a window or vent adjacent to another structure or public space which would cause hindrance to others and any smoking or consumption in a vehicle whilst on a public road.

Adult persons should ensure that any cannabis material, plant(s) and/or cannabis is stored in a secured area out of the reach of children. Failure to do so will result in one having committed an offence, unless the child is assisting the adult person in the cultivation of the plant, which cultivation must be under adult supervision. 

Finally, the Bill also seeks to pardon those who have been convicted of crimes related to possession or use of cannabis by proposing the expungement of their criminal records.

With the Bill before Parliament, a lengthy public participation will probably follow, with potentially sticky areas of the Bill still set to be hotly debated. But for those that have expectantly been awaiting change following the Constitutional Court judgment, the Bill shows progress towards the legislated use and possession of cannabis.

October 12, 2020

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