By / May 30, 2024

South Africa Legalizes Cannabis for Personal Use as President Signs in Bill

South Africa has officially enacted its cannabis reform with President Cyril Ramaphosa’s signing of the Cannabis for Private Purposes Act (CfPPA). This law aligns the country’s legal status with a 2017 Constitutional Court ruling that deemed the prohibition of simple possession and cultivation of cannabis unconstitutional.

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The Path to Legalization in South Africa

The legalization of cannabis in South Africa has been a long and complex process. The 2017 Constitutional Court ruling opened the door by giving legislators a two-year deadline to amend the laws. However, it wasn’t until 2020 that a bill was introduced, followed by further delays before final approval by the National Assembly in November 2023 and the National Council of Provinces in February 2024.

Finally, on the eve of national elections, President Ramaphosa signed the bill, a measure eagerly anticipated by many in South Africa.

Key Provisions of the Cannabis for Private Purposes Act

The Cannabis for Private Purposes Act introduces several key reforms aimed at decriminalizing the consumption and cultivation of cannabis by adults in South Africa. According to a press release from the president’s office, the CfPPA “will completely remove cannabis from the Drugs and Drug Trafficking Act,” paving the way for amendments to various related laws, including the Medicines and Related Substances Act, the Plant Breeders’ Rights Act, and the Plant Improvement Act.

The new law allows adults in South Africa to cultivate their own cannabis plants and consume them in private residences. The bill does not specify limits on possession or cultivation, which are to be set in separate regulations.

The law explicitly prohibits the sale of cannabis, meaning there is currently no legal framework for the commercial sale of cannabis.

Additionally, the new legislation in South Africa contains specific provisions to protect children from undue exposure to cannabis. As stated by the president’s office, “the bill further regulates the administration of cannabis to a child on medical prescription while protecting children from undue exposure to cannabis.”

Economic and Social Impacts for South Aftica

President Ramaphosa has advocated for integrating cannabis into the economic strategy for South Africa. In his 2022 State of the Nation address, he highlighted the potential of the global medical cannabis and hemp industry to generate significant employment opportunities, predicting the creation of over 100,000 jobs.

Parliament spokesperson Moloto Mothapo expressed the government’s optimism that this non-commercial legalization bill will serve as a stepping stone for South Africa toward more comprehensive regulations to establish a formal cannabis market. “The government hopes that the non-commercial legalization bill will serve as a starting point for legislators to adopt stronger regulations to support the establishment of a cannabis market in the country,” said Mothapo.

The CfPPA also provides for the expungement of prior convictions for possession and cultivation of cannabis. This measure is seen as essential for addressing past injustices related to cannabis prohibition and allows individuals penalized by outdated laws to clear their criminal records.

Beyond South Africa – Global Cannabis Reform

The decision by South Africa is part of a broader global trend toward the decriminalization and legalization of cannabis. Similar to South Africa, Mexico’s Supreme Court ruled in 2018 that the criminalization of cannabis was unconstitutional. However, despite progress, Mexico has yet to fully implement the necessary reforms.

The model in South Africa, which emphasizes private cultivation and use, reflects approaches seen in other parts of the world where the focus has been on decriminalizing personal use while continuing to grapple with the complexities of commercial regulation.

(Featured image by GovernmentZA (CC BY-ND 2.0) via Flickr)

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