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By Jarryd Westerdale

Digital Journalist

Cannabis bill among the last acts of Ramaphosa seeking re-election

Marijuana users may legally carry up to 100g in public and keep 600g at home, but smoking in public places is still illegal.

Cannabis enthusiasts are now free to exhale a large cloud of relief.

President Cyril Ramaphosa signed the Cannabis for Private Purpose Bill, legalising the possession and cultivation of marijuana for private use.

The signing was one of Ramaphosa’s last acts of what he will hope to be a smooth transition from his first to second term as president.

The bill was first introduced in 2020 and is one of many significant bills passed in the final days of the sixth administration.

No specific permissions for marijuana users

Smoking the substance in public is still illegal, as is growing cannabis for sale and distribution. Offences for dealing include a fine or a maximum prison sentence of 10 years, or possibly both.

An earlier draft of the bill included allowing users to carry up to 100 grams of marijuana in public and keep up to 600g at home, or 1.2kg in a home of two or more people.

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Unfortunately, this section was removed from the final draft, leaving no specific guidelines for users to follow. Commercial cultivation is still illegal and is classified as a Class A offence.

Smoking or consuming in public as well as doing so near a non-consenting adult will be classified as a Class D offence.

The new law provides retroactive relief for those previously punished, as people with criminal records relating to marijuana will have those convictions expunged, within certain limitations.

“The consequent regulatory reform enabled by the CfPPA will, amongst others, entirely remove cannabis from the Drugs and Drug Trafficking Act,” stated The Presidency via a press release.

The bill also leaves the door open for the implementation of economically beneficial regulatory frameworks in years to come.

Thinking of the children

The new regulations added emphasis on how to manage the substance’s potential to be a gateway drug.  

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Selling cannabis to a minor is a Class A offence and comes with a fine or 12 months in jail. However, children are allowed to use cannabis products when prescribed by a medical practitioner.

In terms of enforcement, the bill passes responsibility to the Children’s Act, the Prevention of and Treatment from Substance Abuse Act and the Child Justice Act, where applicable.

Adults who allow children to consume the substance can face 12 months in prison, while enticing a minor to deal with the substance holds a maximum 10-year sentence. Improperly storing cannabis around children can result in a R2 000 fine.

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In debating and formulating the bill, multiple departments were consulted, including Social Development, Health and Agriculture, among other.

The South African Police Service and the National Prosecuting Authority also had a significant role in the policy shift.

*This article was edited after publication to correct an error regarding prescribed amounts allowed for cannabis users.