South Africa Legalise Cannabis for Personal Use

Liz Filmer
15 Jun 2024

South Africa has taken the huge step by legalising the cultivation and possession of cannabis for personal use.

South Africa becomes the first African country to legalise cannabis for personal use following President Ramaphosa's signing of the Cannabis for Private Purposes Act on May 28. This act removes cannabis from its former position on the Drugs and Drug Trafficking Act.
The reform paves the way for modifications to a number of acts: the Plant Breeders Rights Act, the Medicines and Related Substances Act and the Plant Improvement Act, all whilst supporting the industrialisation of the industry as a whole.

The bill also manages the dispensing of medicinal cannabis to children, shielding them from unnecessary exposure, and providing alternatives for prohibited use and possession by children. This is by the President's press release.

However, cannabis sales and a legal market will remain prohibited. The new legislation will regulate the possession, growing, and use of cannabis for recreational purposes by adults. Anyone aged 18 years or older will be able to use cannabis in any place that the public does not have the right access to.
Adults are entitled to possess any amount of cannabis seeds or seedlings, up to four flowering cannabis plants individually or a total of eight per household, if there are two or more adults residing in the property. They may possess up to 100 grams of dried cannabis in public and up to 600 grams of dried cannabis per person or 1,200 grams per household. Adults are also permitted to consume cannabis in private places.
However, there are still penalties for breaking the new laws, ranging from fines to imprisonment. The penalty depends on the offence and the amount of cannabis involved.
The reform bill was initially proposed back in 2020 but faced delays even though cannabis was identified by South Africa's government as a focus area for economic growth. However, the decision to restrict recreational cannabis to personal use will continue to limit economic potential. The bill was officially signed into law by President Ramaphosa on 28th May. 
The legalisation of cannabis for personal use celebrates a considerable advance in South Africa's drug policy.
Back in 2017, the Western Cape High Court considered it unconstitutional to restrict adults from discreetly consuming and cultivating cannabis and so halted any related prosecutions. This was later affirmed by the Constitutional Court in 2018, which then officially permitted adults to use, possess, and cultivate cannabis for personal use privately. 

Parliament was thus charged with specifying specific restrictions, with the government given 2 years to enact these modifications, which have only been finalised with the implementation of this legislation.
South Africa is the most recent country to transform its cannabis policy. In Europe, comparable regulatory directions have been embraced by Malta, Belgium, and  Germany. On the African continent, Morocco regulated cannabis for medical use back in 2021.

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Liz Filmer