Cape Town - New laws being drafted regarding the use of cannabis for private consumption would be unconstitutional if they excluded members of the SANDF.
This according to the Department of Justice and Constitutional Development, which last Thursday, January 25, presented the public participation submissions it had received before the select committee on security and justice.
Committee chairperson Shahidabibi Shaikh said they had received an “overwhelming response” to the bill, with 46 submissions, including petitions.
Raising their concerns, the SANDF said: “There are far more serious risks, owing to much more onerous duties placed on members of the SANDF, to allowing members to use cannabis, even privately, while in the service of the SANDF, and especially while on active duty.
“The main problem of the SANDF is that there are live-in quarters or official housing on SANDF premises for the member and his or her family.”
The department responded by saying the bill did not give permission for SANDF members to use cannabis while on duty.
“The bill would be unconstitutional if it were to prohibit members of the SANDF from using cannabis in their private places. The bill operates equally for all in the country, including members of the SANDF, even if they are still on active duty. However, the bill does not permit members to use cannabis while on duty.”
The department said in its view the live-in quarters constituted the private place of the member.
“Such members will have protection under the bill unless the policies of SANDF specifically prohibits the use of cannabis within the live-in quarters.
“The member may smoke cannabis only in private, and if he or she reports for duty while under the influence of cannabis, the relevant policies of SANDF will apply and the necessary sanctions may be taken,” said the department.
The bill is a response to the 2018 Constitutional Court order (Prince judgment) which ruled that laws cannot prohibit people from using, cultivating or possessing cannabis in private.
Another member of the public commented that advocates for cannabis reform, along with other users in the country, were united in the call for a regulatory framework similar to that of alcohol.
The department responded saying: “The bill is not intended to commercialise cannabis, but to respond to the Prince judgment.”
The committee will continue its deliberations on the bill at its next sitting.