COSATU presented its submission on the Cannabis for Private Purposes Bill to Parliament today

The Congress of South African Trade Unions (COSATU) presented its submission on the Cannabis for Private Purposes Bill to Parliament’s Portfolio Committee: Justice and Correctional Services today, the 23rd of May 2023.  The Bill and its further revisions are a welcomed step forward to decriminalise cannabis for private purposes as required by the Constitutional Court judgment finding the existing criminalisation of personal use to be unconstitutional. 

The Bill provides a rational legal framework for the use of cannabis for private purposes.  This will avoid the obligation to needlessly arrest and imprison persons using cannabis for personal use in the privacy of their homes whilst serious crimes run unabated.

The Bill provides clear legal provisions for the use of cannabis for medical purposes.  This will badly provide relief for thousands of persons with serious illnesses. 

The Bill recognises the need to provide legal space for religious institutions, e.g. Rastarfarians who’s religious practises include the use of cannabis.  The Bill’s provisions providing for this are welcomed but need to be simplified in order to help such religious and cultural groups to register and comply with the law.  Further thought needs to be given to the practical implementation of the Bill, in particular to regulating the use of cannabis for religious and cultural activities.  We need to avoid overburdening an already overstretched Police Service by unnecessary bureaucratic provisions that will be very difficult to enforce in reality.

Whilst welcoming progress made with the Bill by the Portfolio Committee, COSATU remains concerned with some of the Bill’s provisions.  The Federation believes that the Bill needs further work by Parliament as some of its provisons send mixed and contradictory messages on the commercial production, sale and consumption of cannabis.  This needs to be addressed to find the right balance between complying with the Constitutional Court judgement, decriminalising cannabis and regulating the development of the commercial sector.  Cannabis and hemp in particular have a variety of commercial products that can be used for medicine, clothing, construction, manufacturing and other legitimate commercial uses.  The Bill needs to give expression to this and support government, business and labour’s work to develop a hemp master plan.  This can help remove the industry from the control of criminal syndicates, create badly needed jobs and provide useful goods for the economy.

Parliament needs to move with speed to finalise the Bill and any further amendments.  There are less than 6 months left in the parliamentary calendar.  If Parliament is to comply with the Constitutional Court directive and provide a legal framework for a key economic growth sector, then it needs to expedite and conclude this important Bill.

Issued by COSATU

For further information please contact:

Matthew Parks
Parliamentary Coordinator
Cell: 082 785 0687