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South African Court Rules Private, Adult-Use Cannabis is Legal

In South Africa, “dagga” is now considered legal.

A.J. Herrington

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South African Court Rules Private, Adult-Use Cannabis is Legal
Lukasz Stefanski/ Shutterstock

South Africa’s highest court ruled that bans on the private use of cannabis by adults are illegal, effectively decriminalizing “dagga,” the name for marijuana in the African nation. The Constitutional Court issued its ruling in a suit brought by Rastafarian cannabis activists on Tuesday.

In the court’s decision, Deputy Chief Justice Raymond Zondo ruled that the private possession and use of cannabis are protected by the South African constitution.

“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.

The judge noted that “the use of cannabis must be for the personal consumption of the adult,” according to media reports.

The court also found that cultivation of cannabis on private property for personal use is protected by the constitution, ruling that the right to privacy “extends beyond the boundaries of a home,” according to CBS News. The ruling does not legalize the sale or public consumption of pot, however.

The court did not set a limit on the amount of cannabis that qualifies as a supply for personal use. Instead, the judges left that task to legislators.

“The judgment doesn’t specify the amount that can be used by an adult in private use – this must be determined by parliament. It must be for the personal use of the person,” said Zondo.

Decision Upholds Lower Court Ruling

The decision by the South African Constitutional Court upholds a ruling by the Western Cape High Court that a ban on private consumption of cannabis was unconstitutional, which decriminalized cannabis for the province that includes Cape Town. But that ruling was opposed by officials from the police, justice, trade, and health ministries, which argued that there is “objective proof of the harmful effects of cannabis,” according to the Daily Nation.

The case was filed by Rastafarian Garreth Prince and former Dagga Party leader Jeremy Acton, who asked that the court legalize the home use of cannabis. Jules Stobbs and Myrtle Clarke, known as the “Dagga Couple,” also joined the case and petitioned the court to legalize the cultivation and sale of marijuana. In the suit, the plaintiffs argued that the ban on the personal use of cannabis “intrudes unjustifiably into their private spheres,” reports the BBC.

Cannabis Activists Welcome Ruling

Cannabis activists both inside the courtroom and waiting outside cheered the court’s ruling as it was read by Zondo. Demonstrators chanted “Weed are free now!” and carried signs with slogans including “Free the Weed” and “Legalize Weed, End Economic Depression.”

But some activists believe that the court’s ruling did not go far enough, arguing that the possession of cannabis in public should have also been legalized.

“It’s not enough, we also have privacy in person, as we walk in a public space, therefore we should be allowed to carry cannabis in public,” said Jeremy Acton.

The court called upon parliament to enact legislation legalizing cannabis within 24 months. The ruling will protect adults who use cannabis in private until the law is changed.

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