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South Africa Legalizes Possession and Cultivation of Cannabis

South Africa’s President Cyril Ramaphosa signed the Cannabis for Private Purposes Act, legalizing marijuana possession and cultivation for adults. The bill allows personal use, with limits on plant quantities and possession amounts. This law aims to modernize cannabis regulation, protect children, and stimulate economic growth by creating jobs and supporting the cannabis industry’s development.



South Africa

The President of South Africa, Cyril Ramaphosa, has signed a bill legalizing the possession and cultivation of marijuana by adults. This bill, known as the Cannabis for Private Purposes Act (CfPPA), marks a significant milestone in the long-running fight to reform cannabis law in South Africa.

The CfPPA, approved the day before the national elections in South Africa, brings significant changes to the regulation of marijuana. The bill allows adults to possess and grow marijuana for their own use, while introducing a number of provisions aimed at protecting children and preventing the illegal trade of marijuana.

The draft bill published in August 2023 assumed that each adult could grow up to 4 cannabis plants. If more people live in the house, the number of plants can increase to eight. An adult can have up to 600 grams of cannabis flower in their home, or 1.2 kg for a household of at least two people.

The signing of the bill by President Ramaphosa is of great importance in South Africa, both politically and socially. This is the result of many years of efforts to adapt the law to contemporary realities and society’s needs. Legalizing marijuana could bring significant economic benefits, including the development of a new industry and the creation of thousands of jobs.

Legal and historical background in South Africa

In September 2018, the Constitutional Court of South Africa unanimously ruled that adult use of marijuana would be decriminalized . This meant that the ban on private possession, consumption and cultivation of cannabis plants for personal use was unconstitutional and violated Article 14 of the Constitution, which provides all citizens with the right to privacy

The first draft bill legalizing marijuana in South Africa was presented in 2020, but the legislative process encountered numerous delays. Even though the South African government identified the cannabis industry as one of its priority sectors for economic development, legislative action was delayed and discussions took longer than originally expected.

After much debate and public consultation, the National Assembly approved the law in November last year, and the National Council of Provinces joined the process in February this year. The final signing of the bill by President Ramaphosa marks the end of many years of efforts to reform marijuana law in South Africa.

Details of the Cannabis for Private Purposes Act(CFPPA)

In terms of cultivation, an adult is allowed to grow 4 flowering plants in a private place and up to 8 plants if more than one adult lives in the same place. The minor’s guardian must limit access to plants, but may allow the child to assist in legal cultivation for personal use, provided this is done in the presence and under the supervision of the guardian.

A person may not sell, buy or trade in any way the plant, although it is permissible to give the plant to others free of charge, provided this does not exceed certain limits and the plant is hidden in public places.

In terms of possession, an adult may possess in public places up to 500 grams of fresh marijuana, 100 grams of dried marijuana and 25 grams of cannabis concentrate in solid or liquid form. In a private place, you are allowed to possess up to 3 kilograms of fresh marijuana, 600 grams of dried marijuana and 150 grams of cannabis concentrate.

These limits increase to 6 kilograms of fresh marijuana, 1.2 kilograms of dried marijuana and 300 grams of concentrate if more than one adult lives in one place. Again, the person must ensure that the marijuana is not accessible to children, cannot deal the marijuana, but can give free of charge certain amounts of it, which must be hidden in public places.

Smoking and Consumption
It should be emphasized that the Act still prohibits smoking or consuming marijuana in public places and in the presence of adults who have not given their consent, which is punishable by a fine and/or imprisonment of up to 2 years.

Marijuana also cannot be smoked or consumed in vehicles on public roads or in the presence of minors, which may result in a fine and/or imprisonment of up to 4 years. In addition, a person cannot smoke marijuana in a private place near windows, entrances or other places where the smoke could disturb others, which may be important for people living in multi-family buildings, also punishable by a fine and/or imprisonment of up to 2 years.

Changes in other legal acts
The CfPPA also introduces modifications to other pieces of legislation to ensure legislative consistency. As part of these changes, the Medicines and Related Substances Act will be aligned with the new marijuana regulations, allowing its legal use for medical and research purposes.

Additionally, the Plant Breeders Rights Act and the Plant Improvement Act will be amended to support the growth of the hemp industry by facilitating the breeding and development of new varieties of marijuana to promote innovation and competition in the hemp market.

Child protection
One of the key elements of the bill is protecting children from the potential negative effects of marijuana. The Act specifies the conditions under which marijuana may be used for medical purposes in children, ensuring appropriate control and supervision. Regulations have also been introduced to prevent accidental or unwanted access to marijuana by children, including the requirement to store marijuana in a child-resistant manner.

No legalization of commercial sales
The bill clearly states that legalization does not cover the commercial sale of marijuana. Adults must grow their own plants as commercial sale remains illegal. Marijuana consumption is only allowed in private residences to prevent public use and minimize potential social conflicts.

Social and economic effects of the Act in South Africa

The Cannabis for Private Purposes Act (CfPPA) opens the door to the dynamic development of the cannabis industry in South Africa. The government has ambitious plans for the development of this sector, seeing it as having huge economic potential. Legalizing marijuana may create new jobs and increase tax revenues. President Cyril Ramaphosa, in his 2022 State of the Nation speech, mentioned that entering the global medical marijuana and hemp market could generate over 100,000 new jobs, which would significantly impact the country’s economy.

One of the key aspects of the bill is the erasure of previous convictions related to the possession and cultivation of marijuana from criminal records. The introduction of provisions enabling the abolition of penalties for previous convictions is intended to improve the situation of people who have been convicted of possessing or growing marijuana, as well as to reduce the burden on the justice system.

Many other countries have taken similar steps, including Mexico, whose Supreme Court also found the criminalization of marijuana unconstitutional in 2018 . While reform in Mexico has yet to be fully implemented, the similarities in the approach to marijuana regulation in both countries could provide valuable lessons for South Africa.


The signing of the Cannabis for Private Purposes Act by President Ramaphosa is a historic step towards modernizing cannabis law in South Africa. The act not only legalizes the possession and cultivation of marijuana by adults, but also introduces important changes to other legal acts, protects children from the undesirable effects of marijuana and opens the door to the development of a new economic sector.

The future of the cannabis industry in South Africa seems promising. Legalizing marijuana could bring significant economic and social benefits, including job creation, the development of new industries, and improvements for people previously convicted of marijuana-related crimes. Ultimately, introducing regulations regulating the marijuana market can benefit not only the economy, but also society as a whole, through a fairer and more modern approach to drug policy.


(Featured image by Tom Podmore via Unsplash)

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Arturo Garcia started out as a political writer for a local newspaper in Peru, before covering big-league sports for national broadsheets. Eventually he began writing about innovative tech and business trends, which let him travel all over North and South America. Currently he is exploring the world of Bitcoin and cannabis, two hot commodities which he believes are poised to change history.