Cannabis, known as dagga in Afrikaans, is decriminalized in South Africa. However, the plant is not entirely legal; buying, selling, and growing cannabis are illegal.
But this may not be the case for much longer.
The timeline for cannabis legalization in South Africa
In a 2018 court ruling, the Court determined that prohibition of cannabis was unlawful and violated the right to privacy. This ruling sparked the decriminalization of cannabis possession and gave the government a timeline to implement legal cannabis.
This timeline was delayed due to COVID-19 but in 2020, the Cannabis for Private Purposes Bill was released, outlining a plan for full legalization. As of April 2022, the Bill was still being revised. Once signed into law, adults will be able to possess up to 600 grams of cannabis per person in private, 100 grams in public, and 1,200 grams per household. You can also cultivate four plants per person and trade bud, plants, and seeds.
Don’t rush to find a dispensary just yet – the bill allows private cannabis clubs to grow and distribute the dagga. But don’t worry, you can easily find and visit such clubs with a quick online search.
Penalties for cannabis in South Africa
You are not allowed to smoke weed in public, around minors, or with unconsenting adults. Breaking these restrictions can come with a potentially hefty jail sentence – between one and 15 years in prison.
While possession is decriminalized, it’s still not uncommon for the police to target and even arrest people carrying cannabis. Decriminalization is not the same as legal.
Cannabis in South Africa
Cannabis has a long history in indigenous cultures in South Africa. Restrictions around cannabis use were implemented by ruling classes during colonization to keep the labor force in check. But cannabis is still popular.
- A 2012 report from the South African Department of Social development identified cannabis as the second most commonly used substance behind alcohol and reported that 3.2 million people used cannabis in 2008.
- A 2007 self-reported study1 found that cannabis was the most commonly used illicit substance, and between 5 – 10% of adolescents and 2% of adults reported consuming.
- A UN report from the same year identified South Africa had the third largest amount of cannabis seizures, behind the USA and Mexico.
South Africa also has a small but strong Rastafarian population, a religion that holds cannabis in great importance.
Medical Marijuana in South Africa
Under the 2017 amendment to the Medicines Act, people in South Africa can purchase and use cannabis for medical purposes with a permit from a practitioner. They can also apply to import and distribute cannabis-containing medicines.
Getting a medical cannabis card in South Africa is a fairly straight-forward process and qualifying conditions are left to the physician to decide.
CBD in South Africa
CBD is considered a schedule 4 substance, meaning it’s legal when prescribed by a physician. However, CBD products can only be manufactured in certain ways and cannot contain more than 20 mg of CBD or more than 0.001 % THC/ 0.0075 % CBD.
Patients with a prescription can get CBD at dispensaries and pharmacies, but certain products are available for public sale without a prescription.
Can you grow your own weed in South Africa?
Yes, the court ruling made it legal to cultivate plants for personal use in a private space, though it didn’t specify how many. When the Cannabis Bill becomes law, you can grow four flowering plants per person and up to eight plants per household with two or more people.
Can you buy cannabis in South Africa?
While you can fly in South Africa with cannabis, it would be unwise to fly with it internationally. You can easily find weed during your visit, but remember to keep it concealed in public and only consume in private – otherwise you risk legal trouble.
- K.Peltzer, S.Ramlagan. Cannabis use trends in South Africa. South African Journal of Psychiatry 2007 https://hdl.handle.net/20.500.11910/5711
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