Cape Town - In another step towards realising the large-scale commercialisation of cannabis and hemp in South Africa, parties in the National Assembly on Tuesday threw their weight behind the industry that is set to create jobs, alleviate poverty and help reduce inequality in the country.
The justice and correctional services portfolio committee presented a report on the Cannabis for Private Purposes Bill, which has now been sent to the National Council of Provinces for deliberation.
The report was supported by the ANC, EFF, DA, IFP, NFP and PAC, while the Freedom Front Plus and ACDP voiced their opposition.
Portfolio committee chairperson Gratitude Magwanishe said the bill was the first step towards the development of legislation on regulations of cannabis for commercial purposes, as the cannabis and hemp sector was a priority for the government to secure investment and job creation.
The drafting of the report follows a ruling by the Constitutional Court in 2018, which ordered that the private cultivation, possession and consumption of cannabis is legal, and laws cannot prohibit people from using or possessing cannabis in private.
Since then, lawmakers have been working on drafting the bill to expand on the court order, while including, among others, the economic regulations of cannabis cultivation and laws and prescripts around cannabis use by children.
The potential legal pharmaceutical market for hemp and cannabis in South Africa has been estimated at more than R100 billion a year.
“Due to the complexity of the subject matter, the committee has facilitated extensive public consultation processes and deliberation with numerous stakeholders,” said Magwanishe.
“The committee notes that the cannabis and hemp sector is among the priority sectors identified by the government to secure investment, job creation, and support for sustainable and rural livelihoods.
“The committee hopes that this bill paves the way as a first step for the development of legislation to address the regulation of cannabis for commercial purposes. The responsible use of cannabis for private purposes has been legalised,” Magwanishe said.
EFF justice and correctional services committee member Busisiwe Mkhwebane said they were in support of the bill, and called for the “decolonisation of cannabis use”, in which a racist stigma around its use has been perpetuated for centuries.
“The bill must amplify the health and other benefits of using cannabis and not simply adhere to the colonial description of cannabis as a hallucinogen.”
Janho Engelbrecht, DA spokesperson for Correctional Services, noted that the National Road Traffic Act would have to be amended, making it an offence to be under the influence of cannabis while driving.
The ANC emphasised the interests of children in the bill.
“Our focus in this matter is on the appropriate way to respond to a child using and possessing cannabis.
“The committee requested the House for permission to extend the scope of the bill and call for public comment to ensure compliance with all procedural requirements in the processing of the bill.
“This was done, in line with the dictates of the Constitution. The committee facilitated meaningful public participation. It has been a long journey since the (Constitutional Court) judgment was first handed down.
“The ANC supports the bill,” a committee member said.