It’s greener where you water it.

Cannabis has a rich and extensive history in South Africa. The plant was already being used by indigenous Khoisan and Bantu peoples by the time European settlers arrived in 1652. Traditional healers include cannabis as part of their toolkit. In rural areas of KZN and the Eastern Cape it has been an important cash crop, potentially supporting whole communities.

Cannabis was first outlawed in Natal as early as 1860, and by the late 1920’s it was wholly criminalised on a national level. Prohibition did not prove to be totally effective however, with reports by the Medical Research Council in 2004 and 2008 finding the number of cannabis users to be (at least) 2.2 million and 3.2 million, respectively. 

For most of many of our lifetimes, cannabis was something we had to enjoy illicitly. When lighting up there was always the lurking threat that the law would ruin not only your buzz, but potentially your life. The joke at the time was “the most dangerous thing about weed is getting caught with it”.

But in more recent times, the situation is looking a lot better. The South African cannabis community has celebrated a number of victories. Several court cases and rulings have granted us more freedom and started to bring cannabis back into the open where it belongs.

But where exactly do we stand today? This article will summarise the current legislation around cannabis in South Africa. If you’d like to know precisely how much cannabis you are allowed to grow, or to possess; or how to go about getting a license to cultivate it, read on below.

The first of the recent big victories for the cannabis community came in March 2017.  The appropriately named Cape High Court ruled that any law disallowing the use and cultivation of cannabis by an adult in a private dwelling was unconstitutional and therefore invalid. This decision was appealed by the state, and would therefore need to be confirmed by the constitutional court before taking effect.

In 2018 the constitutional court gave confirmation, when chief justice Raymond Zondo announced that adults may be in possession of, or use cannabis for their own personal use in private. In addition, the decision stated that the cultivation of cannabis by an adult in a private place for his or her personal consumption in private is no longer a criminal offense.

However, the use, including smoking, of cannabis in public or in the presence of children or in the presence of non-consenting adult persons is not permitted. Also, the use or possession of cannabis in private other than by an adult for his or her personal consumption is not permitted.

But Zondo did not specify quantities that people would be allowed to use, cultivate or possess. This is where the 2020 Cannabis for Private Purposes Bill came in.

How much cannabis can you possess or grow in South Africa?

If you want to know the specific amounts of cannabis you are allowed to grow, or have in your possession, the 2020 cannabis for private purposes bill outlined the details. 

For private use, the prescribed quantities allowed for possession and cultivation include:

  • Unlimited 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 homes with two or more adults;

Individuals may exchange between each other, without remuneration: 

  • 30 seeds or seedlings, or a mixture of the two;
  • one flowering plant;
  • 100 grams of dry cannabis

It is also worth noting that the above amounts may also have equivalents in terms of other forms of cannabis. For example, 1 gram of dried cannabis is considered equal to five grams of dried cannabis. Additionally, one gram of dried cannabis is considered equal to 0.25 grams of solid or liquid cannabis concentrate. 

You can refer to the 2020 Cannabis for Private Purposes Bill for further details. 

Do I need a license to grow cannabis commercially in South Africa?

Many of you are also wondering if you can legally grow cannabis for commercial purposes. If you want to grow cannabis for commercial purposes rather than for private use, you will need to get a licence. 

How do you get a license to grow cannabis in South Africa?

You will find the license application to cultivate, manufacture or import cannabis for medicinal purposes at the SAHPRA (South African Health Products Regulatory Authority) website.

How do I get a license to grow hemp in South Africa?

You will also need a permit if you intend to grow low-THC industrial hemp for commercial purposes. You can find guidelines and application forms for this permit via the department of land reform and rural development.

There is a growing body of research on the healing and medicinal purposes of cannabis. You might be wondering if it is legal to use medicinal cannabis in South Africa.

Healthcare professionals can apply to SAHPRA to treat patients with medicinal cannabis. The doctor would need to submit an application including a dosage regimen, acceptable justification for the proposed use, and regular reporting to SAHPRA. You can find further information in the following SAHPRA document.
You can find a summary of the legality of CBD and THC for medicinal purposes on this page.

This article has outlined the details of South African cannabis legislation. Now that you know exactly how much you are allowed to possess, and grow for your own personal consumption, you might be inspired to get growing. Cannabyss has your needs covered when it comes to cannabis growing equipment.

If you don’t have much of a green thumb, and would rather let others do the growing, we also offer a wide range of cannabis rolling accessories. Let the good times roll.

Get growing with our range of lighting, grow tents, environmental controls and more.