The Portfolio Committee on Justice and Correctional Services this week held three days of virtual public hearings on the Cannabis for Private Purposes Bill, where it received oral input from many stakeholders.

Committee Chairperson Mr Bulelani Magwanishe described this week’s hearings as well as the engagement last week with several government departments on its Masterplans regarding Cannabis for Private Purposes as “fruitful and vibrant”.

The majority of stakeholders who participated in the public hearings were opposed to the draft Bill, as they felt it was too restrictive with very little consultation by government departments into the masterplans.

Mr Jeremy Acton registered his “complete dissatisfaction with the Bill, and the process whereby it has been drafted for presentation to the public. I reject the Bill in its entirety for my own rights and for the rights of people of the cannabis culture in South Africa.”

The Centre for Child Law (CCL) said its primary concern is that the Bill fails to address the plight of children who find themselves in a cycle of “drug abuse” and who may contravene its provisions. The CCL said: “The Bill, at clause 5, provides for a range of “consumption offences”. The problem with these offences are that they, much like the cultivation and cannabis offences, apply to “any person” (which includes children). The problem with these offences are that they fail to make special provision for children. The CCL recommends that children, rather than being prosecuted, be referred either to the care and protection system, where warranted and in terms of the Children’s Act, or be referred to a treatment centre in accordance with the provisions of the Prevention of and Treatment for Substance Abuse Act.”

The Cannabis Development Council of South Africa said the Bill in its current form still negatively impacts people’s rights to equality, dignity, freedom and privacy in that it still proposes to use the criminal penal code to regulate cannabis. The labour federation, Cosatu, said the Bill must deal with all aspects of the industry, which includes value add and marketing which are presently excluded.

Sister Letty from the Mpumalanga Ras Tafari Community said South Africa’s cannabis industry is worth around R12 billion. She called for the complete freedom of cannabis legislation. “Then anyone can produce the type of cannabis they want. It’s like with tomatoes. And government will still get tax on the sale of cannabis.”

The Cannabis Trade Association of South Africa indicated that all cannabis should be declared as food unless it is used for medicinal purposes.

Mr Magwanishe explained the way forward and said the committee will in the next few weeks deliberate on all submissions, written and oral.

Rajaa Azzakani
3 September 2021