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South Africa Officially Decriminalizes Cannabis For Personal Use

Emily Mullins

by Emily Mullins

June 5, 2024 11:25 am ET Estimated Read Time: 2 Minutes
South Africa Officially Decriminalizes Cannabis For Personal Use

In a historic move, South Africa has become the first African country to officially decriminalize cannabis for personal use. It happened just one day before last week’s election, when then-President Cyril Ramaphosa signed the Cannabis for Private Purposes Act.

This act took effect on May 28, effectively removing cannabis from the country’s Drugs and Drug Trafficking Act. Although Ramaphosa lost reelection in Congress, this measure will continue to have major ramifications for South Africa even throughout the next president’s tenure.

Ramaphosa spoke on this move in a press release, stating that it “will further enable amendment of the Schedules to the Medicines and Related Substances Act and provide for targeted regulatory reform of the Plant Breeders Rights Act and the Plant Improvement Act, as well as other pieces of legislation that require amendment to allow for the industrialization of the cannabis sector.” 

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Adults can now possess an unlimited number of cannabis seeds and seedlings. They may also have four plants per person (or eight per household) as long as they are grown in a private setting. As far as flower, adults can have up to 100 grams on them in public and up to 600 grams in private. While official sales remain illegal and there are no dispensaries in South Africa, one flowering plant or 100 grams of flower can be gifted to others without remuneration.

“The Bill further guides the medically prescribed administration of cannabis to a child while also protecting children from undue exposure to cannabis,” said Ramaphosa. “It provides for an alternative manner by which to address the issue of the prohibited use, possession of, or dealing in, cannabis by children, with due regard to the best interest of the child. It also prohibits the dealing in cannabis.”

The law also established penalties, such as fines or jail time, for people who exceed the above possession limits or make their cannabis products accessible to children.

The bill was first proposed in 2020, so this has been in the works for some time now. If South Africa is able to enter the global cannabis and hemp industry, Ramaphosa predicts that it could generate up to 100,000 jobs or more within the country. Whether or not this move will spread to surrounding areas is still uncertain, but it may end up having major ramifications for African countries in the future.

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