person holding a dagga joint. Ramaphosa signed the cannabis bill into law the day before the 2024 elections

A stock image of a person holding a joint. Image: Pexels

Ramaphosa signs private dagga use into law with potentially last act as president

South Africans have expressed suspicion at Ramaphosa’s move to legalise private dagga use on the cusp of election day.

person holding a dagga joint. Ramaphosa signed the cannabis bill into law the day before the 2024 elections

A stock image of a person holding a joint. Image: Pexels

Adults in South Africa, who the Constitution deems as any person 18 years or older, can now grow, possess and smoke dagga privately in their homes without fear of being arrested.

This comes after President Cyril Ramaphosa, in what could be his last act as head of state, signed into law the Cannabis for Private Purposes Act (CfPPA) on Tuesday 28 May, hours before South Africans were set to vote in the national and provincial elections on Wednesday 29 May.

Details of new dagga law signed by Ramaphosa

“The CfPPA regulates the cultivation, possession, and use of cannabis by adults in a private setting. The consequent regulatory reform enabled by the CfPPA will, amongst others, entirely remove cannabis from the Drugs and Drug Trafficking Act,” the Presidency said in a statement on Wednesday.

The newly enacted law is set to trigger amendments to other laws that regulate and guide industrial growers and farmers of dagga.

“This [law] will further enable amendment of the Schedules to the Medicines and Related Substances Act and provide for targeted regulatory reform of the Plant Breeders Rights Act and the Plant Improvement Act, as well as other pieces of legislation that require amendment to allow for the industrialisation of the cannabis sector,” Presidency said.

The dagga law is also set to provide guidance on the safe medical prescription of cannabis products to children.

“It provides for an alternative manner by which to address the issue of the prohibited use, possession of, or dealing in, cannabis by children, with due regard to the best interest of the child. It also prohibit the dealing in cannabis,” the statement ended.

South Africans highly suspicious

Although signing of the new dagga law is long overdue, after the Constitutional Court ruled in 2018 that it was unlawful for police to arrest adults who use cannabis privately, South Africans on social media expressed reservations at Ramaphosa’s move, especially on the cusp of election day.

Former Democratic Alliance (DA) MP, Phumzile Van Damme, labelled the move “audacious”.

“Did this guy just legalise marijuana the day before an election?!” Van Damme asked on X.

Some X users were unmoved, saying Ramaphosa’s signing of the dagga law was too little, too late to get them to vote for the ruling party.

“We’re still not gonna vote for ANC. He’s panicking,” said one X user.

Ramaphosa’s last-minute signing of the dagga law comes as he faces scrutiny from opposition parties over alleged misuse of state resources to campaign for the ANC, after he addressed South Africans on Sunday and rattled off his administration’s achievements of the past five years.

The DA wants the Electoral Court to declare that Ramaphosa’s “national address on 26 May 2024 violated” specific sections of the Electoral Code of Conduct and the country’s Constitution. The party also wants him to be fined R200,000 and has asked that the ANC be docked 1% of their national votes.

The uMkhonto weSizwe Party wants the court to cancel the ANC’s registration as a political party and has also asked that Ramaphosa face criminal charges.