If major changes in Cannabis Bill succeeds in Parliament commercial recreational cannabis would be a reality in South Africa

By Edward Tsumele, Cannabis Business Africa Editor

What the South African Cannabis industry has been waiting for and been complaining about, in the proposed law allowing private use and cultivation of cannabis, but excluding recreational  commercial trade in cannabis is eventually being corrected.

In a move and process that is considered radical, government is now going full steam in legalization commercial trade in recreational cannabis. A reworked cannabis Bill, with amendments proposing major changes allowing for commercial trade in recreational cannabis, was presented to Parliament this week on Tuesday, March 8, 2022.

This news is sweet news especially to a sector which felt strongly that the previous Bill presented In Parliament was disappointing as it did not go far, regulating commercial recreational cannabis. 

The Cannabis for Private Purposes Bill is meant to respect the right to privacy of an adult person to possess cannabis plant cultivation material; to cultivate a prescribed quantity of cannabis plants; possess a prescribed quantity of cannabis and to smoke and consume cannabis. This Bill follows a Constitutional Court ruling in 2018, effectively allowing adults to cultivate and posses cannabis for private use in their homes, but not to sell or use it in public.

However with cannabis benefits, including medical benefits now a reality globally, investors are currently looking for opportunities in the sector, and governments around the world are currently reviewing legislation to allow investment in the sector, and South Africa is one of those countries playing a catch up. South Africa’s neighbour Lesotho is leading the way on the continent  as t the government can now issue licenses for cultivation of cannabis, and already there are foreign investors playing a role in the sector.

South Africa is on its way to creating a legal frame work for both recreational and medical cannabis, and that is If the amendments  presented to the Portfolio Committee on Justice and Constitutional Develoment successfully go through the Parliamentary processes. 

The country has a blue print for formalizing the cannabis business in the form a Cannabis National Master Plan. President Cyril Ramaphosa in his recent State of the Nation Address  said that government was going to fast track regulatory reforms that will allow investment in legal cannabis. Provinces of South Africa, particularly Gauteng, Eastern Cape, KwaZulu-Natal and Western Cape seem to be ahead with regards to unraveling infrastructure that will support legal cannabis for commercial exploitation and investment.

Now these suggested changes to the Cannabis for Private Purposes Bill is seen as a step in the right direction by the sector.

These changes are happening following public comments to the Bill, in which major players in the sector, rather those interested in the sector prevailed and made submissions. It appears as If government and its policy makers have heeded these submissions, especially the outcry for policy makers having left out of legislation regulating commercial recreation cannabis.

Though illegal, the illicit recreational cannabis has taken root in South Africa over many years, with some families, especially in the so called dagga belts of Eastern Cape and KwaZulu-Natal relying on selling cannabis illegally to fight poverty, feed their families and send their children to school, a solidly entrenched culture dating many years, spanning several generations.

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