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The Law Around Drug Related Offences in South Africa and Examples


- Featured article by LAWYERS-ONLINE.CO.ZA - June 2019

With the recent legalisation of marijuana use in South Africa, the law regarding drugs and drug related offences has been a hot topic for many. Therefore, let’s take a look at the law around drug related offence as laid out in the South African Drugs and Drug Trafficking Act 140 of 1992.

The aim of this act is to prohibit “the use or possession of, or the dealing in, drugs and of certain acts relating to the manufacture or supply of certain substances or the acquisition or conversion of the proceeds of certain crimes”

That definition carries an interesting distinction, that being the difference between dealing and possession – one which is often debated in the court when clients are arrested for drug related offences. A person may be charged with dealing if they have more than a certain amount of an illegal substance in their possession (this amount varies per substance), even if they had only purchased the substance for their personal use. Dealing is a far bigger crime to be charged with than possession and can lead to harsher sentences. As per the act, dealing in drugs may be defined as: “performing any act in connection with transhipment, importation, cultivation, collection, manufacture, supply, prescription, administration, sale, transmission or export of the drug”.

So, what sort of penalties can you expect if you are found guilty of drug related offences? Let’s take a look below:

  • 12 months, a fine or both for failing to cooperate with the police on a drug related investigation
  • Up to 5 years, a fine or both for the possession or attempting to frame another person for possession
  • Up to 10 years, a fine or both for dealing
  • Up to 15 years, a fine or both for manufacturing illegal substances
  • Up to 25 years, a fine or both for dealing in dependency-producing substances such as heroin

When looking at the law regarding drug related offences in South Africa, it should not be viewed as a draconian scheme that does not take into account the plight of addiction. Therefore the Treatment for Substance Abuse Act 70 of 2008 makes way for treatment centres, preventative measures and harm reduction activities in relation to drug addiction, in order to help those touched by the harmful effects of drug abuse.

If you require any advice for input regarding drug related offences please reach out to us and we can put you in touch with a lawyer who can assist with these matters.

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