South Africa’s highest court has just legalized the private use of cannabis for recreational purposes.
The Constitutional Court of South Africa on Tuesday upheld a ruling by the provincial court decriminalizing the use of cannabis — which is locally called dagga. The landmark ruling involves the 2017 case of Gareth Prince, a weed advocate who contends that the use of the drug should not be deemed a criminal offense and should be regulated in a similar way as tobacco and alcohol.
The South African government had appealed the provincial ruling, arguing that legalizing cannabis was not in line with the country’s constitutional values as it could harm the citizens.
Cannabis ban is unconstitutional
In its decision, the top court said that an adult can grow cannabis in a “private place” provided that it is for personal consumption. The court added that the right to privacy extends beyond the boundaries of one’s home.
The court also stated that the government’s ban on the private cultivation, possession, and consumption of marijuana was in contradiction to the country’s constitution. More specifically, it found that the prohibition of cannabis violated section 14 of the constitution, which provides for the people’s right to privacy.
Deputy Chief Justice Raymond Zondo stressed out that the drug may not be consumed in public, may not be distributed or sold, or many not be used by minors.
Moreover, the court said that a police officer has the discretion to decide if the amount of cannabis found in someone’s possession is for personal consumption or for dealing.
The third to legalize cannabis in Africa
South Africa is the third African country to legalize cannabis after Lesotho and Zimbabwe.
Lesotho, in 2017, started allowing licensed companies to grow cannabis. The country has the ideal climate and location for cultivating the plant and its cannabis industry is the leading contributor to its poverty-plagued economy.
Zimbabwe legalized marijuana in April for medical and scientific purposes. Companies and individuals with approved licenses can grow cannabis plants for use in medical applications and for scientific research.
South Africa’s cannabis culture
Cannabis is widely cultivated across South Africa for both export and domestic use. In fact, a report by the United States state department says that South Africa is a major source of herbal cannabis for the U.K. and continental Europe.
American cannabis publication High Times even rated the South African cannabis strain “Durban Poison” as one of the 20 greatest cannabis strains of all time.
Check out our special report on cannabis in Africa here.