If you’ve been keeping up to date with the latest news over the past few years, you would have noticed a lot of talk about cannabis. Both in America and South Africa, there has been an increase in activity surrounding the legal status of weed. Many people now want to know: “Is weed legal in South Africa?”
Even though you might want a simple yes or no answer to this question – it isn’t that easy. Nothing about the law is ever simple and with all the court cases, declarations, and parliament addresses you might be struggling to keep up with everything you need to know.
Instead of suffering through countless documents, we are going to provide you with all the information you need in this easy-to-read guide. The focus will be on the past legal status of weed, how the weed laws in South Africa are changing, and what that means for the average citizen.
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Dagga Laws in South Africa 2019
In 2019, there were many new cannabis clubs and other related cannabis companies popping up. You may have seen these and wondered about the marijuana laws in South Africa – don’t worry you’re not alone in this.
The actual legal situation is very complicated and although many companies are being formed, cannabis is not legal in South Africa as of 2024. So are these companies operating illegally and is marijuana legal in South Africa? To answer these two questions we need to go back to 2018.
South African Weed Laws 2018
In 2018, the Constitutional Court of South Africa made a ruling regarding marijuana laws in South Africa. The case was brought forward after the Western Cape High Court previously ruled that “it is an infringement to ban the use, cultivation, or possession of dagga by adults in private homes”.
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The Constitutional Court confirmed this ruling, and when asked “is cannabis legal in South Africa?”, stated that it is “unconstitutional to the extent that they trench upon the private use and consumption of a quantity of cannabis for personal purposes which does not constitute undue harm”. They also put forth a recommended period of 24 months for parliament to deal with this issue.
This was a major win for the cannabis community of South Africa. Although it did not make marijuana legal in South Africa, it decriminalised the personal use and cultivation of cannabis. With this judgement, it would therefore not be a criminal offence to use, cultivate, or be in possession of dagga in South Africa.
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These rulings did not, however, include the sale of cannabis. And so it is still a criminal offence to be trading in cannabis or products containing cannabis.
Legalization of Weed in South Africa
After the constitutional court judgement, 2019 and 2024 were filled with cannabis. Many South Africans have come forward to cultivate, use, and possess the plant and there are even businesses starting around this existing legal loophole. But what progress has been made?
After almost two years of silence on the topic, the government stepped forward in 2024 to submit the first draft of a legalisation bill. This bill was approved by the cabinet and is currently open for public submissions at the time of writing this article but it faces a lot of public criticism.
The bill proposed by government includes the following:
1) Legal limits for personal, legal use at home are set to:
- Unlimited for seeds and seedlings
- Four flowering plants for those living alone, or eight for homes with two adults or more.
- 600 grams of dried cannabis if you live alone, or 1.2 kilograms in home with two or more adults
- In public places, possession is set to 100 grams of cannabis or one flowering plant.
2) For purposes of exchange between individuals (no remuneration involved) limits are set to:
- 30 seeds or seedlings, or a mixture of the two
- One flowering plant
- 100 grams of dry cannabis
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The bill proposes strict limitations as to how many plants and how much cannabis individuals may cultivate and possess which is in direct contrast with the 2018 constitutional court ruling. As of now, this bill is still far from finalised. And the way the government is talking, it is unlikely that any changes to cannabis legalisation in South Africa will take place within the next year.
Is Weed Legalised in South Africa?
Although you won’t go to jail for using, cultivating, or possessing cannabis, it is important that it is for personal use only. Any evidence of distribution can lead to a run-in with the law.
This can make it difficult for the average person to get their personal-use cannabis because we can’t all grow it for ourselves. This gap led to the emergence of members-only growing clubs. However, if you are able to grow your own then you should consider some of South Africa’s best cannabis seed banks.
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Cannabis Clubs & Weed Laws in South Africa
These South African cannabis clubs offer a growing service where members essentially rent a space and pay someone to look after / grow their plants for them.
This means that instead of selling cannabis, these clubs are offering a gardening service. Although these companies think they are operating outside the scope of the law, there was a recent example that has caused some debate about whether it is legal to grow dagga in South Africa.
In October 2024, a Cape Town-based cannabis club had its facilities raided and all its plants and equipment confiscated due to suspicion of illegal distribution of cannabis. The case is set to be heard in court at the beginning of 2024. It will be an important case when looking at other cannabis clubs operating in the existing legal situation in South Africa.
Now that you know more about Marijuana law in South Africa, you can see that the current situation isn’t as easy to understand as you might expect. The most important thing to remember is that you have a constitutional right to cultivate, use, and possess cannabis for personal use in a private space but as soon as you start trading, selling, or offering other cannabis services you are entering into unchartered territory.