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South Africa Supreme Court Reviews Cannabis Cultivation Club Case

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South Africa’s Supreme Court is reviewing a case that could have significant implications for the future of the nation’s emerging cannabis industry. The case involves an entity that started a private cannabis cultivation club shortly after South Africa’s Supreme Court issued a landmark decision that determined cannabis prohibition as it pertains to people in private settings was unconstitutional. This latest case involving the private cannabis cultivation club may help firm up what exactly ‘private cannabis possession and use’ actually means.

Whenever a court issues a ruling, there are almost always questions left unanswered as well as the creation of new uncertainties. For instance, in South Africa’s landmark decision Deputy Chief Justice Raymond Zondo stated, “It will not be a criminal offence for an adult person to use or be in possession of cannabis in private for his or her personal consumption.” What does ‘private’ entail, and what is considered to be ‘possession’ and ‘personal consumption?’ This latest case before the South Africa Supreme Court gets to the heart of those questions.

Private Cannabis Cultivation Club Model

Someone being in possession of cannabis in a private setting for the purpose of consuming said cannabis may seem like a straightforward scenario to some people, however, there’s a lot of legal gray area involved. For starters, does ‘private’ only mean in a person’s home, or does that extend to all private property, including business properties? Does possession include cannabis plants that are growing, or does it only mean harvested cannabis and products derived from the harvest? Does this involve gifting and/or paying someone to help with acquiring cannabis in private settings to any degree?

All of those questions are being considered via the latest cannabis case being reviewed by South Africa’s Supreme Court. The Haze Club (THC) launched with a unique business model. It’s a private club that involves people signing up for a membership, the member provides cannabis seeds to THC, THC then cultivates the plant for the member in a dedicated, private space on THC property, and after the plants are harvested they are provided to the member.

Obviously, law enforcement seemed to feel that the model operated outside of the Court’s decision being that they raided it and applied charges to the club’s owner. The club owner is arguing that everything was conducted in private and that the Court’s decision provided for such private activity. Ultimately, the Supreme Court will sort it out.

Possibly A Moot Decision

In the midst of the latest cannabis court case in South Africa, lawmakers and regulators are working towards making the country a legal continental and international cannabis powerhouse. The country has a ‘Cannabis Master Plan’ that is geared towards embracing cannabis commerce both domestically as well as beyond the borders of South Africa.

Domestically, the plans include provisions for a regulated adult-use industry. Internationally, at least for the time being, South Africa’s efforts will focus on medical cannabis. Currently, only three countries have legalized cannabis for adult use via legislative action, and out of them, Canada is the only country that allows legal adult-use sales to anyone of legal age regardless of their residency status. With that in mind, it will still be a while before we see international adult-use commerce between multiple countries.

However, when legal adult-use commerce does officially launch at the international level, South Africa will presumably be well-positioned to hit the ground running. In the meantime, much of the effort in South Africa will be geared towards the domestic industry, and private cannabis clubs using THC’s business model could be fully legalized, licensed, and regulated. If that proves to be the case, any decision in the specific THC case could ultimately prove to be moot.

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