New cannabis bill allows you to grow your own – within limits


The Cannabis for Private Purposes Bill, published for comment in August 2020, proposes allowing adults to grow up to four plants (per adult) at home, and exchange up to 100 grams of dry cannabis, provided no money changes hands.

The bill will also expunge any criminal records for those previously convicted of the possession or use of cannabis.

At the core of the Cannabis for Private Purposes Bill is the right to privacy embodied in Section 14 of the Constitution.

The release of the bill for comment follows the September 2018 Constitutional Court ruling that the prohibition on the personal use and cultivation of cannabis by adults in their own homes was unconstitutional. The government was given two years to amend the offending legislation.

Dear South Africa is calling for public comment on the bill. There has been considerable comment around the bill, both for and against. Some have argued that cannabis is a gateway to more harmful drugs, and that children and non-consenting adults may be exposed to potential harm. There are also concerns over the police’s ability to enforce violations of the proposed law.

Though the new bill allows for limited cultivation and use of cannabis in one’s own home, there are severe penalties for those violating the proposed new law: 15 years maximum jail for anyone dealing in cannabis or provides it to a child under 18. Smoking cannabis around children can also land you four years in jail, or two years if you smoke in public or too close to a non-consenting adult.

Cannabis is defined as anything containing the psychoactive cannabinoid THC (including vaping of cannabis-derived liquids).

The proposed legal limits for personal, legal use of cannabis at home are:

  • unlimited for seeds and seedlings
  • four flowering plants for those living alone, or eight for homes with two adults or more
  • 600 grams of dried cannabis if you live alone, or 1.2 kilograms in homes with two or more adults.
  • In public places, possession is set to 100 grams of cannabis or one flowering plant.

The bill proposes allowing private adults to carry up to 100 grams of cannabis in public, though it must be concealed from public view.

Those previously convicted of cannabis-related offences under the Abuse of Dependence-producing Substances and Rehabilitation Centres Act, or the Drugs and Drug Trafficking Act, will automatically have their criminal convictions expunged.

While the bill proposes relaxing possession, cultivation and use of cannabis, the following will be deemed to be in violation of the new law:

  • Any person who exceeds possession limits in a public place;
  • Any person who exceeds possession limits in a private place;
  • Any person who smokes cannabis in a public place;
  • Any person who smokes cannabis in the immediate presence of any non-consenting adult person;
  • Any person who smokes cannabis in the immediate presence of a child;
  • Any person who smokes cannabis in a private place near a window, ventilation inlet or doorway to or entrance into another place;
  • Any person who consumes cannabis in a vehicle on a public road.

Have your say on this bill. Does it go far enough in protecting the rights of children and non-consenting adults? Are the penalties for over-stepping the bill too severe? Will it encourage greater use of cannabis and act as a gateway to other, potentially more harmful drugs?