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By Cornelia Le Roux

Digital Deputy News Editor

High alert: National Assembly finally gives Cannabis Bill the green light

The Cannabis for Private Purposes Bill which has been gathering dust since 2018, was adopted by the National Assembly on Tuesday.

The National Assembly’s decision to adopt the bill has finally stubbed out a five-year-long lull which followed the groundbreaking 2018 Prince judgment of the Constitutional Court decriminalising the private use of cannabis.  

The ANC, DA, IFP, EFF, NFP and PAC supported the Cannabis for Private Purposes Bill, while the FF+ and the ACDP opposed it during the National Assembly’s hybrid plenary on Tuesday afternoon, 14 November.

Cannabis Bill: ‘If you want to smoke it, you have to grow it’

DA MP Janho Engelbrecht, who spoke on the bill in the National Assembly, stressed that adults will be allowed to use cannabis only in their homes. 

“People should bear in mind what this bill is about. It is about cannabis for private use by adults. You are not allowed to buy or sell cannabis, because this still remains a criminal activity with severe consequences. If you want to smoke it, you have to grow it, don’t buy it,” he said.

According to BusinessLIVE, the bill also provides for the expungement of criminal records of those convicted of possession, use or dealing in cannabis based on presumption. 

The bill will now be transferred to the National Council of Provinces for concurrence.

Bill redrafted

The original bill tabled by the Department of Justice, has however been significantly redrafted by Parliament’s Justice Committee.

The bill adopted by the National Assembly does not specify the quantities of cannabis plants and dried cannabis that a person may possess for private use.

Justice and Correctional Services Minister Ronald Lamola has been tasked to draw up these regulations which will then be submitted to Parliament for approval.

ALSO READ: Dagga: SA must ‘free the herb’ to tap into R50 billion goldmine

Impact on children reason Cannabis Bill delays

Moloto Mothapo, a Parliament spokesperson on the matter, cited the new bill’s potential impact on children as the reason for the delays in its passage.

The Portfolio Committee on Justice and Correctional Services is in charge of processing the private Cannabis Bill.

According to Mothapo, the Department of Justice and Constitutional Development has however called on the committee to consider broadening the scope of the bill to include considerations related to the best interests of the child.

“The bill as tabled and deliberated on by the committee up until its meeting on 12 September 2023, did not look beyond the adult-centred focus of the private-purpose use of cannabis,” Mothapo told IOL.

“The Constitutional Court suspended the operation of the order of constitutional invalidity for a period of 24 months for Parliament to finalise the legislative reform process. The date by which the defect must be corrected by Parliament is 28 September 2024,” Mothapo clarified.

ALSO READ: ‘It will create a police state’: Dagga Party calls cannabis bill ‘fascist’

What about commercialisation and medicinal use of cannabis?

It is important to note that neither the commercialisation of cannabis nor its medicinal use is provided for in the bill.

According to Mothapo, the committee is hopeful that the bill will pave the way for the future of the country’s cannabis industry, which has been identified by government as one of 14 priority sectors to secure investment, job creation and support for sustainable rural livelihoods.

ALSO READ: KZN govt to host cannabis indaba

Seminal role of Rastafarian lawyer Gareth Prince

Cape Town Etc reported that the 2018 Concourt ruling was named after Gareth Prince whose tireless efforts played a major role in the outcome of the judgment.

According to law firm Cliffe Dekker Hofmeyr, Prince is a practising Rastafarian with a law degree who lives in Cape Town.

Rastafarian lawyer Gareth Prince during the Cannabis Expo at GrandWest Arena on 5 April 2019 in Cape Town. Photo: Gallo Images/ Brenton Geach

Prince headed to the high court in 1998 when he was denied admission as an attorney due to two prior criminal convictions for cannabis possession.

“In 2018, the Constitutional Court found that the criminalisation of cannabis [and its history] was characterised by racism and that many indigenous South Africans used cannabis,” according to Cliffe Dekker Hofmeyr.

“The court also found that the alleged harm of cannabis was not as severe as historically argued. It also makes little sense to allow the use and possession of alcohol and tobacco and criminalise cannabis.”

NOW READ: German govt okays plan to legalise recreational cannabis

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