What You Need To Know About South Africa’s Marijuana Laws

What You Need To Know About South Africa's Marijuana Laws
What You Need To Know About South Africa's Marijuana Laws. Image source: Pixabay

Despite the controversy that still surrounds this plant, marijuana is legal for medicinal and recreational use in many countries worldwide. It is largely thanks to numerous studies conducted to prove the positive health effects of cannabis.

In 2018, South Africa joined the list of countries to legalize the use of marijuana or dagga, as it is known there. The Constitutional Court legalized the private use of the plant and that became a reason to celebrate among marijuana enthusiasts as well as the tourists visiting the country.

Many have welcomed the legalization of the consumption of marijuana and are looking forward to being able to grow the plant freely in their own yards. This is likely to lead to the booming of the cannabis industry.

However, even though the Constitutional Court has legalized limited consumption of marijuana, there are many questions left and many ambiguities about the laws that might confuse you. That is why in this article, we provide all the information you need to know about South Africa’s Marijuana laws.

How It All Began

In 2017, the Western Cape High Court ruled that the law prohibiting an individual from using marijuana in their home was unconstitutional. This also refers to the cultivation of cannabis for personal use. The Constitutional Court of South Africa agreed with this about a year later and personal use of cannabis in the privacy of one’s home became legal.

An adult individual can use or be in possession of marijuana for personal use without fear that it will be considered a criminal offense. They can grow marijuana on their own property and use it whenever they want.

However, the court’s decision raised more questions than answers. The law does not specify what amount of marijuana can one legally use. This is yet to be determined by the South African parliament in the future. The parliament was given 24 months to adopt the court’s ruling.

Buying Marijuana Seeds Is Illegal

The new South African law clearly states that the limited personal use of marijuana is legal. But it must be for the personal use of the person, and not for distribution. That means that buying marijuana seeds is still not legal. Cannabis cultivation for the purposes of distribution is strictly prohibited by the law even though the livelihood of many families depend on it.

Using Marijuana In Public is Still Illegal

The Constitutional Court’s decision might have you thinking that you can light up a joint anywhere on the street without legal repercussions. But this is not the case. Using marijuana in public is still illegal and if caught, you will be fined. Your marijuana will be confiscated and you will have to pay a fine. In some cases, you might even get out of it with just a warning.

Interestingly, this doesn’t usually refer to tourists who are generally not targeted by the police in South Africa. Selling weed in South Africa remains illegal as well.

But certain ambiguities will continue to exist until the parliament determines exactly the amount of marijuana a person can use or cultivate. Until then, South African police officers will have to use common sense. If a person is caught with a certain amount deemed not for personal use, they will ask questions in order to find out whether the individual intends to distribute the weed, and then make a decision based on their response.

Cannabis Products for Medicinal Use

There were attempts to alter the Medical Innovation Bill in order to legalize the use of marijuana for medicinal purposes. However, even though these attempts were rejected, in 2019, it is a bit easier to get hold of certain cannabis health products.

These products are health supplements which contain less than 20mg of cannabidiol (a chemical component in marijuana, CBD).

So to summarize the marijuana law in South Africa:

  • You can use and grow cannabis on your own property for personal use only
  • If you are 18, you can use cannabis in the privacy of your home
  • You cannot sell or use cannabis outside of your home; if caught, you will be fined
  • You cannot buy cannabis unless it is a cannabis-containing health supplement approved by the law.
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