As of September 2018, South Africa decriminalised cannabis for private use. In addition to This was great news for those who no longer wanted to buy their bud con the sly, but it is kind of complicated for everyone else. The government didn’t make cannabis use legal, and it also didn’t decriminalise production. What does this mean? Well, it means that you won’t go to jail for smoking in your house, but the guy who sells to you still could. Obviously, this isn’t a fair system for producers. But is there some kind of legal loophole that can make it easier?
Decriminalisation was achieved due to our South African Constitution, which states that we have a right to privacy, which in turn means that we should be able to enjoy the right to privacy and that which comes with it – including consuming cannabis in the privacy that a private residence provides. This is why citizens can smoke and grow in their own home. In response, a little thing called a ‘Grow Club’ has started popping up. Grow Club entrepreneurs have started renting out private spaces where growers can ‘privately’ grow plants for the renter’s ‘private’ consumption. Because of this, there is technically no selling going on, and everything is private. Smart, right? But are grow clubs legal in South Africa?
South Africa is not the only country to come up with this system. Spain has long been famous for its ‘cannabis social clubs’, where members can go and smoke up free from worry. Consumption and possession are still not legal, but private use is decriminalised – like in South Africa. These clubs are organisations where everyone can grow, share, and consume cannabis products in private. You need to be invited in to become a member – which is great because it stops pesky tourists from making Barcelona look like Amsterdam. This system has been going on since the 90s, and clubs can have as many as 50,000 members. But what does the Spanish court think about it? In 2015 the ‘organised institutionalised and persistent cultivation and distribution of cannabis among an association’ was announced to be drug trafficking, and yet no one’s really moving to stop them. The trade seems to be too important to the people of Spain, and we can see why.
Back in South Africa, tons of growers have already tapped into the loophole, and we can imagine they’re doing well. If you want to become a member of a growing club the fee is around R1,000 a month – this will get you around three plants. We can’t tell you exactly how many grams this will be – yield is different for everyone that grows. But at least your little plants will be safe in the hands of an expert pot druid. This is probably easier than trying to grow your own potted pot at home – and less time-consuming. Besides, allowing marijuana farming is still a form of job creation – even if the South African court doesn’t agree with it morally.
So, are grow clubs legal? Growing clubs in South Africa seem to be working well. In the meantime, cannabis advocates are still pushing for proper legalisation of the plant. As explained in our ‘Dutch model’ article, decriminalisation is not enough. Although it does stop people from going to prison just for smoking up, it does nothing to protect producers or sellers. We can only hope that the parliament catches up and sets up a proper system of legalisation.