Cannabis for Private Purposes Bill: further responses and deliberations

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Justice and Correctional Services

22 February 2022
Chairperson: Mr G Magwanishe (ANC)
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Meeting Summary


Cannabis for Private Purposes Bill: response to public submissions

The Portfolio Committee on Justice and Correctional Services was briefed by the Parliamentary Legal Advisors (PLA) on the schedules of the Cannabis for Private Purposes Bill (CPPB). The drafting of this Bill was informed by the Constitutional Court judgment handed down in 2018, which found that it was unconstitutional for the state to criminalise the possession, use or cultivation of cannabis by adults for private personal consumption.

Members agreed that more scientific views and research should be sourced by both the PLA and the Department of Justice and Constitutional Development (DJCD) on the negative effects of cannabis on brain development, as well as the correct limitation of tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) in cannabis products. There was also discussion as to whether an increase in the minimum age from 18 to 21 should be considered.

Both the Department and representatives of the Rastafarian community would have to make their submissions on the exemptions for cultural and religious purposes by 8 March.

Meeting report

The Chairperson said that he had circulated to Members a letter sent by Adv Gareth Prince, which requested an extension for a briefing by the Rastafarian community, to further consult with the Department on the exemptions for cultural and religious purposes. Following this, he suggested that during the meeting, the Committee focus only on the Department’s response. Both the Department and the Rastafarian community would have to make their submissions prior to 8 March 2022.

Mr S Swart (ACDP) supported the Chairperson’s recommendation. He asked whether the Committee would receive feedback on the conclusions made by the various professors who had conducted studies on the use of cannabis, regarding the possible negative impact of cannabis on adolescents.

Adv G Breytenbach (DA) informed Members that the Democratic Alliance had added Mr Janho Engelbrecht to the Committee.

Mr J Engelbrecht (DA) said that he looked forward to working with Members of the Committee going forward.

The Chairperson asked whether the Members wanted to pose questions during the presentation or once it was concluded. 

Mr Swart said the Committee should discuss the Bill during the presentation as there were a number of important issues that need to be attended to. 

Cannabis for Private Purposes Bill (CPPB): briefing

Mr Sarel Robbertse, Senior State Law Advisor, took the Committee through the contents of the Cannabis for Private Purposes Bill (CPPB).

Mr Swart said the African Christian Democratic Party (ACDP) had previously raised its concern regarding the impact the Bill would have on children, adolescents and the rest of society. Whilst the party would welcome an increase in the adult age from 18 to 21, it did not know if this would cover the negative effects caused by cannabis. He felt that there should be further consultations and deliberations on the Bill, particularly as the harm caused by cannabis was dealt with by other departments, and not the Department of Justice and Constitutional Development (DJCD). He requested that the Committee take into consideration the broader impact of the Bill on society.

The Chairperson asked if the ACDP would be willing to settle for an increase in the adult age to 21 years.

Mr Swart replied that he would.

The Chairperson indicated that the ACDP’s other concerns would have to be attended to. He asked if the Committee agreed with defining an adult as being 21 years and older. 

Ms Y Yako (EFF) said that the Committee should stick with the legal prescription of an adult being considered to be 18 years or older in South Africa.

Mr W Horn (DA) agreed with Ms Yako, saying that it was settled in the country that an individual was deemed to be an adult at the age of 18. If the Committee were to agree to this change, then the Bill would have to be redrafted. 

He asked whether the Committee should be guided by the opinion from one professor regarding the negative effects of cannabis use on the brains of individuals younger than 25. He asked whether the DJCD had been able to look into the scientific views of other specialists and whether the Committee should do so.

Adv Breyetenbach agreed that the Committee should stick with the legal prescription of an adult being considered to be 18 years or older in South Africa. She also agreed that more research should be done on the effects of cannabis on brain development.

Mr R Dyantyi (ANC) supported the views of Members, particularly regarding the suggestion that there be more in-depth research into the effects of cannabis use on brain development.

Mr Robbertse said that during the discussions, Prof Charles Parry had mentioned that he would make available findings from studies conducted in America regarding the effect of cannabis on the brains of individuals younger than 25.

The Chairperson cautioned that the Bill should not rely on only one individual to provide an opinion or research on this subject.

Mr Robbertse acknowledged the recommendation but indicated that Prof Parry would be providing independent research.

He recommended that they not deviate from the age of adulthood that had been set in the current legislation.

Mr Swart asked for clarity on whether the limitation on the consumption of tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) to 0.2% was unworkable, or should be seen as unworkable.

Mr Horn asked to what extent the definition of cannabis was necessitated by the purpose of this Bill, which was to allow for the lawful use of cannabis. To what extent did the Bill speak about the regulation of cannabis?

Mr Robbertse indicated that the restriction on the consumption of THC to 0.01% in processed products was unworkable. The 0.2% limitation was a prohibition contained in the Medicines and Related Substances Act, 1965 (MRSA), and emanated from an amendment made to the Single Convention on Narcotic Drugs in 1961, which stated that substances which include more than 0.2% THC should be excluded from international control. One reason this limitation might not be workable was because the Bill mainly aimed to regulate the personal use of substances containing THC.

He added that more thought had to be put into how much THC needed to be in a product for an individual to obtain a cannabis high. For this, he recommended that a 0.5% or less limitation be put in place.

Regarding the use of cannabis by children, he said that a 0.2% limitation of THC should be considered for purposes of Clause 5 in the Bill. 

Referring to the 0.2% limitation, Mr Robbertse said that this was in relation to hemp. In both New Zealand and Australia, a higher amount of THC was allowed in hemp. 

Regarding the impact the Bill would have on other legislation, he said the Bill mainly provided a limit for any cannabis product containing THC and looked to regulate its harmful effects. He admitted that the Bill may not be workable in terms of the commercialisation of cannabis, particularly when a product containing THC was sold. The Bill was an inter-measure and could be amended at a later stage through other legislation. 

The Chairperson said that the Members would reflect on the positions taken in the Bill, and would return to the matter during the discussions scheduled for 8 and 9 March. 

Mr Horn said that the Bill was not suitable to regulate the commercialisation of cannabis and the entire industry – even on an interim basis. Through the public participation process, the Committee had been made aware of the difficulties of commercialising cannabis through regulations. He advised that the Committee stick to the narrow objectives of the Bill, which were based on the Constitutional Court (CC) judgment.

The meeting was adjourned for ten minutes.

Mr Engelbrecht said that there may be an issue in defining THC and Cannabidiol (CBD) compounds contained in cannabis. Further, he felt that the bill might contradict the current legislation that deals with cannabis. If the Bill was passed and certain sections remained in the MSRA, there would be a conflict in place between the two pieces of legislation. He asked whether the controversial sections in the Bill should be repealed, or whether the Bill should state how to deal with the potential conflict.

Mr Swart said the ACDP had concerns regarding the health effects of cannabis and had rejected the Bill. However, it would continue to deliberate on the matter.

Mr Robbertse said that Schedule 7 of the MSRA shifted the regulation of THC to Schedule 6 of the same act.

On the definition of THC and CBD, he said the difficulty was whether to define a cannabis product as one which contains THC or CBD. Additionally, the MSRA had limited application.

He did not believe that there was a conflict between the Bill and the MSRA. The only issue was the fact that Schedule 6 of the MSRA did not prescribe the use of cannabis privately, which was against the CC judgment.

The Chairperson asked what work the Committee should attend to the following day.

He proposed that the Committee adopt the Bill as a working document to guide it during the scheduled discussions on 8 and 9 March.

Mr Dyantyi moved to support the proposal.

Adv Breytenbach seconded the mover.

The Chairperson requested that the Parliamentary Legal Advisor conclude its engagements with the Rastafarian community regarding the exemptions and that it compiles all relevant research on the matter. 

The meeting was adjourned.


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