South Africa’s top court recently ruled that the private and personal use of cannabis should no longer be an arrestable offense. Deputy Chief Justice Raymond Zondo called the prohibition of “dagga” (the South African word for marijuana) “unconstitutional and invalid”.
“It will not be a criminal offense for an adult person to use or be in possession of cannabis in private for his or her personal consumption,” Zondo said.
Private and personal use of cannabis is to be constitutionally protected until the laws change to reflect this decision. Lawmakers in South Africa’s parliament will now have two years to change the current policy on cannabis. Until then, it will be up to police in the area will as to whether someone in possession of the plant has the intent of personal use or the distribution. That is quite a long time to remain in such a discretionary grey area, but at least this decision is a win for the rights of the South African people.
The recent ruling stems from a previous decision from the provincial court in 2017, which legalized personal use and cultivation of marijuana in resident homes located in the Western Cape province. South Africa’s Dagga Party sees this recent court decision as the first step of several in the right direction.
“Obviously this judgment is only the first opening of a door, but we have two years to determine how the new law will really look. Needless to say, dagga will have to be de-scheduled in the illicit drugs act and the Medicines and Related Substances Act,” said Jeremy Acton, Dagga Party leader.
Acton says the party will continue to advocate and lobby for the rights of cannabis users, including what he believes is their right to public consumption. The Dagga Party views public use of cannabis as on par with that of alcohol and tobacco consumption.
“The ruling is a victory for every person who is a member of our culture. However, people should be able to gather in places which are still private events where collective experience of cannabis use may continue, just as people gather to have a beer,” Acton said.
Most legalization supporters in the U.S. would echo Acton’s sentiment, as there are far more restrictions on where legal users can consume cannabis than there are for that of other legal drugs, like alcohol and tobacco. Only time will tell if the plant is eventually treated as such.