/ 29 May 2024

Green light for cannabis as Cyril Ramaphosa signs new bill into law

Serious Cyril Ramaphosa
President Cyril Ramaphosa. Photo: Dwayne Senior/Getty Images

On the eve of the national and provincial elections, President Cyril Ramaphosa has signed the Cannabis for Private Purposes Bill into law.

Ramaphosa assented to the bill, which has been before him for his signature for several months, on Monday afternoon, hours before South Africans went to the polls in the most significant election since 1994.

The presidency said in a statement that the new Act would regulate the possession, use and cultivation of the plant by adults in a “private setting” but that it was still illegal to trade in it.

The new law removes cannabis from the Drugs and Drug Trafficking Act — a regulatory milestone which will clear the way for a process of amending a number of other laws to allow for the industrialisation of cannabis.

It also guides the medically prescribed administration of cannabis for minors, while at the same time “protecting children from undue exposure to cannabis”, the presidency said.

While the law prohibits dealing in cannabis and regulates the amount of cannabis an individual can grow, possess and transport for personal and private use, it is understood that the state intends to create the framework for this to eventually be legalised in terms of the national cannabis master plan.

In 2018, the constitutional court declared the legislation outlawing cannabis invalid and gave the state two years to pass laws addressing this situation.

However, the process only got underway in earnest in 2021 and has been delayed by more than three years as earlier drafts presented by state legal advisors did not pass muster.

The president has also recently signed the National Health Insurance Bill, the Gender-Based Violence and Femicide Bill, the National Prosecuting Authority Amendment Bill and other pieces of legislation into law.