This subsequent legislation would regulate the recreational industry under a licensing scheme that would provide for different categories of licences for cultivation, sale and processing of cannabis.
The licensing regime would encourage local economic growth and investment and would give preferential access to rural communities historically involved in the industry, including the Rastafarian community and “other cultural and religious communities which have been prejudiced by past discrimination on the basis of their association with cannabis.”
The cultivation, processing, packaging and sale of recreational cannabis would all be regulated, as well as with the quality, strength and safety of the plant flowers or extracts traded in.
Regulation would also provide for harm-reduction measures and public education about cannabis, together with monitoring the effects of its availability on public health.
The government would also be required to set up a National Cannabis Advisory Council consisting of experts in the field to advise the government on policy around harm reduction.
The bill allows representatives of religious or cultural communities to secure permits to cultivate and sell cannabis.
In his presentation to the committee, state legal adviser Sarel Robbertse said cannabis should be treated in the same way as alcohol or tobacco and that the legal age for consumption should reflect this and stand at 18.
Robbertse said the earlier version of the Bill had not allowed for the commercial cannabis industry and that the new clauses addressed this. The specific regulations would come from other ministries, which would be tasked with regulating the industry and providing a licensing regime.
This process would be required to promote broad-based black economic empowerment and accommodate communities — like Rastafarians — who had been historically prejudiced by their association with cannabis, Robbertse said.
African Christian Democratic Party MP Steve Swart described the changes to the Bill as “‘dramatic”’ and said it should not be used to limit access of any of the existing operators in the industry who, although currently illegal, would want to legalise their operations.
Committee chairperson Gratitude Magwanishe said that the committee was “fine”’ with the amendments, subject to a legal opinion on the public participation process.
The committee, he said, should endeavour to pass the bill by the end of the current parliamentary session, or at least have taken it to an “advanced stage”of the process.
With the national assembly approving these additions on 31 March, the bill is now being considered in a second round of public participation meetings.
While Cosatu said it broadly supports the objectives of the bill, it noted that more work still needs to be done on the draft bill as it was ‘unrealistically bureaucratic and cumbersome’ in some regards.
It added that there are elements of the bill that are still too restrictive and do not go far enough in decriminalising cannabis use in the country – pointing specifically to the use of cannabis for religious purposes and the additional regulations placed on monitoring people who use cannabis.
The original draft bill outlines possession rules for cannabis users at home and people who wish to cultivate the plant. It also introduces new offences and provisions for people who previously received a criminal record for cannabis possession.
The bill states that an adult person may for personal use:
- Possess the prescribed quantity of cannabis plant cultivation material;
- Cultivate the prescribed quantity of cannabis plants in a private place;
- Possess in private the prescribed quantity of cannabis in a public place;
- Possess the prescribed quantity of cannabis in a private place;
- Possess in private the prescribed quantity of cannabis plants in a public place.
The bill defines a ‘private place’ as any place, including a building, house, room, shed, hut, tent, mobile home, caravan, boat or land or any portion thereof, to which the public does not have access as of right.
The draft legislation also states that an adult person may, without the exchange of remuneration provide to, or obtain from, another adult person, for personal use the prescribed quantity of:
- Cannabis plant cultivation material;
- Cannabis plants;