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South Africa’s President Signs ‘Private Setting’ Cannabis Legalization Measure

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Back in 2018, South Africa’s Constitutional Court issued a landmark ruling that deemed cannabis prohibition as it pertained to adult individuals to be unconstitutional. The 2018 decision stemmed from a lower court decision in Western Cape in March 2017 which determined that a ban on cannabis use by adults at home was unconstitutional.

The 2018 decision in South Africa left many unknowns, including how much cannabis a person could cultivate and possess in a private setting. The Court largely punted many policy decisions to lawmakers, who then proceeded to drag their feet for several years. Today, after a long delay, South Africa’s President signed a measure to codify the Court’s 2018 decision.

“President Cyril Ramaphosa has signed into law the Cannabis for Private Purposes Act (“CfPPA”). The CfPPA regulates the cultivation, possession, and use of cannabis by adults in a private setting.” The President’s office stated in a press release.

“The consequent regulatory reform enabled by the CfPPA will, amongst others, entirely remove cannabis from the Drugs and Drug Trafficking Act. This will further enable amendment of the Schedules to the Medicines and Related Substances Act and provide for targeted regulatory reform of the Plant Breeders Rights Act and the Plant Improvement Act, as well as other pieces of legislation that require amendment to allow for the industrialisation of the cannabis sector.” the press release also stated.

South Africa joins a growing list of nations that have adopted modernized adult-use cannabis policies. Uruguay legalized cannabis nationally for adults in 2013, with national product sales launching in 2017.

Canada became the second nation to adopt adult-use cannabis legalization in 2018, making it the first G-7 nation to adopt recreational reform. Malta legalized in 2021 followed by Luxembourg in 2023.

Germany is the largest nation to pass a national adult-use legalization measure, with the first provisions of the nation’s CanG law taking effect on April 1st. Social cannabis clubs are expected in Germany in July, and regional adult-use cannabis commerce pilot trials are expected to launch by the end of the year.

South Africa’s recently approved measure does not legalize adult-use cannabis product sales. However, the removal of cannabis from the nation’s Drugs and Drug Trafficking Act is significant.

Somewhat similar to Germany’s recent removal of cannabis from its national Narcotics List, the removal in South Africa will likely have a dramatic impact on its national medical cannabis industry. Researchers estimate that South Africa’s medical cannabis industry has the potential to create a R100 billion-a-year boost to the nation’s economy and create over 130,000 jobs.

Today’s cannabis measure signing in South Africa adds to the growing momentum for global reform.

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