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South African Police: No More Arrests for Personal Cannabis Use

New directive addresses cannabis law confusion after the 2018 constitutional court ruling.




The South African Police Services (Saps) has issued a directive, effective from August 23, 2023, instructing police officers not to arrest individuals for personal cannabis cultivation and possession, reports The Citizen. This directive comes as a response to ongoing confusion and discrepancies in enforcing cannabis laws since the 2018 Constitutional Court (ConCourt) ruling, known as Prince 3, which decriminalized personal cannabis use.

While the ConCourt ruling decriminalized personal use, it did not extend the same protection to cannabis dealing, which remains illegal under the Drugs and Trafficking Act unless amended by Parliament.

The Saps directive emphasizes that there is currently no legislation specifying the allowable quantities of cannabis for personal use. It also highlights that there is no provision for presuming drug dealing based on the quantity of cannabis found in an individual’s possession.

To prevent unlawful arrests and detentions, the directive advises Saps members to consult with the prosecuting authority before making arrests related to cannabis possession, use, or cultivation. It defines a private space as any area not accessible to the public as a matter of right, including the inside of a motor vehicle. Additionally, small quantities of cannabis dispensed by traditional, cultural, or religious healers are considered private and personal possession.

Failure by police officers to adhere to these instructions may result in disciplinary action. While the directive clarifies the legal position regarding personal cannabis use, it remains an internal document, and the overall legal landscape surrounding cannabis in South Africa continues to evolve.




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