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Drug Possession South Africa

Arrested for drug possession? Criminal defence lawyer Simon Dippenaar can assist with your drug possession case.

While possession of cannabis for personal use has been decriminalised, it is still illegal to possess cocaine and other scheduled, dependence-producing substances. If you are arrested for possession of cocaine or other scheduled drug, and it is your first offence, call Simon now.

What constitutes possession?

You may think “possession” means having the drugs on your person. However, that is not how the law sees it. The Drugs and Drug Trafficking Act, 1992, Chapter IV, Section 20 states:

If in the prosecution of any person for an offence under this Act it is proved that any drug was found in the immediate vicinity of the accused, it shall be presumed, until the contrary is proved, that the accused was found in possession of such drug.

Substances in your home or car will be deemed to be in your possession.

What constitutes dealing in drugs?

Dealing in drugs is a much more serious crime than possession, and carries harsher penalties. Chapter 4, Section 21 of the Act defines dealing as:

If in the prosecution of any person for an offence referred to (a) in section 13(f) it is proved that the accused- (i) was found in possession of dagga exceeding 115 grams; (ii) was found in possession in or on any school grounds or within a distance of 100 metres from the confines of such school grounds of any dangerous dependence-producing substance; or (iii) was found in possession of any undesirable dependence-producing substance, other than dagga, it shall be presumed, until the contrary is proved, that the accused dealt in such dagga or substance.


Drugs are categorised as either “dependence-producing” or “dangerous dependence-producing”, and are outlined under Schedule 2 as Part 1 and Part 2. Cocaine is classed as Part 2 – a dangerous dependence-producing substance. The penalties vary in severity depending on the nature of the substance possessed or dealt.


If you are found in possession of dependence-producing drugs, you may be subject to a fine, set by the court, or you could face imprisonment of up to five years…or both. If you are found in possession of dangerous dependence-producing drugs, e.g. cocaine, the custodial sentence could be up to 15 years.

The severity of the penalty will be determined by a number of factors, including whether or not it is your first offence.


The penalty for dealing in dependence-producing substances is also related to whether the drug is considered merely dependence-producing or dangerous dependence-producing (Schedule 2 drugs, Part 1 or Part 2).

If you are convicted of dealing in Part 1 drugs, you face a fine, imprisonment for up to 10 years, or both. Dealing in Part 2 drugs carries a heavier penalty: up to 25 years’ imprisonment.

Impact on your career

If you are a first-time offender charged with possession, and you are a professional with a reputation as a law-abiding member of your community, you may only receive a fine. But you will have a criminal record, which can impede your career prospects. There is a way to avoid this, but it is not an easy way out and requires commitment on your part to not re-offend.


We can recommend to the magistrate that you are enrolled in a diversion programme. Diversion entails voluntarily attending a life skills course and counselling. You must take responsibility for your actions and avoid re-offending. You may be required to do some form of community service. If our diversion application is successful, you will not have a criminal record.


Cocaine is classed as a dangerous dependence-producing drug for a reason: even used in small amounts, cocaine increases the risk of heart attack, stroke, seizure or respiratory failure, any of which can result in sudden death. Initially it produces an intense high, but this is not what causes addiction. The dependence comes from the craving for the drug that accompanies the depression following the short-lived high. Eventually users need more and more of the drug to feel “normal”.

Recovery from cocaine addiction requires appropriate medical and social support. The Department of Social Development operates a Substance Abuse 24-hr helpline. SANCA (the South African National Council on Alcoholism and Drug Dependence) offers treatment programmes developed in line with the latest research and international treatment principles and standards. There are also many private rehabilitation programmes.

We can help

At SD Law & Associates we know people make mistakes. Sometimes unfortunate circumstances lead to substance abuse and eventually to arrest. We believe in supporting offenders to put the past behind them and become productive members of society.

If you have been arrested for drug possession, contact drug possession lawyer Simon on 086 099 5146 or email We will defend your case, link you to support and, if appropriate, make an application for diversion.

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