The South African Police Service has confirmed that the private cultivation and use of cannabis will not warrant an arrest, despite a Constitutional Court (ConCourt) ruling in 2018.
In 2018, the ConCourt decriminalised the private use of cannabis, however, users were still fearful as rules and regulations around the use and cultivation were not set in stone.
But the latest SAPS directive, confirmed by Brigadier Athlende Mathe, has shed more light on the burning issue.
“In short, possession, use and cultivation of cannabis by an adult, for personal consumption, in private, is permitted. In contrast, dealing in cannabis is not permitted therefore commercialisation of cannabis is still not legal in South Africa,” Mathe told IOL on Wednesday.
Mathe said since the 2018 ConCourt ruling, the definition in Section 1 of the Drugs and Trafficking Act, No. 140 of 1992 was expanded.
Under the newly defined Act, the phrase “deal in” involves any act in connection with the trans-shipment, importation, cultivation other than the cultivation of cannabis by an adult in a private place for his or her personal consumption in private, collection, manufacture, supply, prescription, administration, sale, transmission or exportation of the drug.
When arresting cannabis offenders, Mathe said police officers are expected to confer with the National Prosecuting Authority to determine whether or not the arrest would result in a prosecution.
In addition, Mathe explained that police are not allowed to arrest cannabis offenders for the sake of meeting targets.
“No arrests are to be made for personal and private cultivation and/or or possession of cannabis, which activities are not criminal.
“Furthermore, no arrests of alleged cannabis offenders should be effected merely for the reason to achieve predetermined targets and without assurance that there is indeed a crime that will be enrolled and prosecuted by the National Prosecuting Authority,” Mathe said.
In light of the new police directive, a private space constitutes a space that has a physical barrier preventing access.
A private space also does not need to be owned by the cultivator for it to be regarded as a private space.
The inside of a motor vehicle is also considered a private space.
Cannabis that is distributed by religions, tradition or cultural healers in small quantities is also regarded private and personal.
Lastly, more than one person may have ownership rights to private and personal cannabis.