Drugs

Understand your rights concerning drug possession, arrest and searches in South Africa amongst many more.

General

The non-medically prescribe use of drugs or any banned substance is both illegal and addictive. Contrary to popular belief, the possession of any amount of a banned or restricted substance can result in a drug charge, including the possession of marijuana. 

While possession of small amounts may not result in an imposed prison sentence, it can result in a fine, a criminal record or a 5 year suspended prison sentence, which means that if a person violates the terms of their sentence within 5 years they will have to serve a prison sentence. 

Please contact the South Africa National Council on Alcoholism and Drug Dependence if you are aware of someone who needs affordable treatment for drugs and alcohol addiction:

  • SANCA – Johannesburg: 0861173422 or (011) 673-0400 or www.sanca-jhb.org.za; and
  • SANCA – Western Cape: (021) 945 4080 or visit www.sancawc.co.za.

Note: The following are offences related to drug use and/or trafficking:

  • Dealing in drugs;
  • Possession or use of drugs; and
  • Failure to abide by limits imposed on alcohol and tobacco.

A person who committees any of the above-mentioned offences may be sentenced to a period of no less than 15 years of imprisonment.

Drug Dealing

The dealings in any medically or non-medically approved drug is unlawful with the exception of prescriptions and dealings by pharmacists or medical practitioners in the ordinary course of their business. Dealing in drugs, in its ordinary sense, refers to the selling and purchasing of drugs. However, the law has expanded this meaning to include a host of association actions or transactions. Therefore, drug dealing refers to any one of the following acts:

  • The selling or purchasing of medically or non-medically approved drugs without a license to do so;
  • The collection of medically or non-medically approved drugs without a license to do so;
  • The importation or exploration of medically or non-medically approved drugs without a license to do so;
  • The supplying of medically or non-medically approved drugs without a license to do so;
  • The administration of medically or non-medically approved drugs without a license to do so;
  • The cultivation of medically or non-medically approved drugs without a license to do so;
  • The manufacture of medically or non-medically approved drugs without a license to do so;
  • The prescribing or prescription of medically or non-medically approved drugs without a license to do so; and
  • Any act in connection with these activities.

Note: Any person found in the possession of more than 115 mg of a medically or non-medically approved drug will be presumed to be involved in dealing with drugs. 

Note: The selling of medically or non-medically approved drugs includes, but is not limited to, the offering, advertising, possessing, exposing, disposing and exchanging of any such drugs.

Possession or Use of Drugs

It is illegal for a person to use or be in possession of any illegal and dependence-producing drug. 

What does possession mean? 

Possession refers to any one of the following acts:

  • Keeping;
  • Storing; and
  • Having in custody or under control or supervision.

While the possession of an amount of less than 115 mg of of a medically or non-medically approved drug might not lead to imprisonment, it may lead to the person getting a fine or a suspended sentence that allows tis person to not be in jail but abide by certain rules. If any of these rules are violated, the person can then be imprisoned. 

Note: If drugs are found in the immediate vicinity of someone, the police can assume that that person has been in possession of those drugs. 

What does use mean? 

Use refers to any of the following acts:

  • Employing it for any purpose;
  • Smoking;
  • Inhaling;
  • Injecting; and
  • Ingesting.

Note: Private use of cannabis includes possession of less than 115 mg in a person’s car or person (e.g. pocket) as long as it is used in private.

Alcohol & Tobacco

ALCOHOL: 

Alcohol, an intoxicating liquid, is one of the exceptions of dependence-inducing chemicals (drug) that the law controls and regulates but does not entirely prohibit the use or possession of. 

Who is allowed to sell alcohol? 

Only persons who have a Liquor license may sell alcohol to others. 

Where is a person allowed to consume alcohol? 

A person may consume alcohol at their private residences. 

Any consumption of alcohol in public is illegal including, but not limited to:

  • Streets;
  • A workplace;
  • Private premises, except where the owner has consented to it; and
  • Sports grounds.

Where is a drunk or intoxicated person allowed to enter? 

A drunk person is not allowed to be in or near any public road, shop or place of entertainment. A drunk person may only remain in their private residence or private premises where an owner has consented to the drunkenness. However, if that person becomes violent or disorderly, they may be subsequently charged for alternative offences. 

Note: No liquor shop may allow a drunk person to enter their premises even if they have a Liquor license or sell alcohol to a drunk person. 

Can a person consume alcohol near a minor or expose a minor to alcohol? 

It is illegal for any person to consume alcohol in the presence of or near a minor and exposing them to alcohol. No shops may sell alcohol to a minor under any circumstances. 

Please contact the Child Protection services on 10111 for any emergencies or reports concerning children who are victims of crime or report cases of child abuse for police investigation on childprotect@saps.org.za. 

TOBACCO: 

Tobacco also refers to any substance consisting of nicotine and are another exception to dependence-inducing chemicals that the law controls and regulates but does not entirely prohibit the use or possession of it. 

Where can a person smoke? 

A person may smoke at their private residences. Smoking less than 10 metres from a building is illegal and in any public area including:

  • Streets (including lanes);
  • A workplace;
  • Less than 10 metres from a person without their consent;
  • Any enclosed or partially enclosed public area;
  • Private premises except where the owner has consented to it; and
  • Sports grounds.

Can a person smoke near a minor or expose a minor to tobacco? 

It is illegal for any person to smoke in the presence of or near a minor and exposing them to tobacco or nicotine. No shops may sell tobacco to a minor under any circumstances. 

Please contact the Child Protection services on 10111 for any emergencies or reports concerning children who are victims of crime or report cases of child abuse for police investigation on childprotect@saps.org.za.

Marijuana

The use of cannabis for private use was legalised in South Africa in 2018. However, while the private personal use of cannabis has been “decriminalised”, any use of cannabis outside of this strict authorisation is still illegal and punishable by law. Although criminal records are no longer issued for the possession of small quantities of cannabis, Courts will still process members of the public arrested by the police on suspicion of possessing cannabis with the intention to sell it. The same applies to the cultivation of cannabis. 

Note: The Government has been tasked with outlining the protocol for defining quality and quantity in regard to the lawful cultivation and possession of cannabis. However, until this has been done, the Court has merely stated that the police are to apply their reasonable judgment in dealing with separate scenarios related to cannabis. 

Note: For further information please see our content page regarding "Marijuana"