ConCourt decriminalises private dagga use, rules current act is unconstitutional

South Africa’s Constitutional Court has ruled that personal use of marijuana is not a criminal offence

The Western Cape High Court also ordered that in the interim period, prosecutions for personal dagga possession as described in its judgment should be stayed.

South Africa's top court ruled Tuesday that private, personal cannabis use was legal in a landmark case that had pitted law enforcement agencies against marijuana advocates and the judiciary. Unlike in USA states, where cannabis reform has been enacted through legislation or public votes, South Africa's legalization comes from a ruling of the country's highest court in response to a case brought by cannabis activists. Using cannabis in public, as well as selling and supplying it, is still illegal.

Deputy Chief Justice Raymond Zondo handed down the judgement, which confirmed that sections 4 (b) and 5 (b) of the Drugs and Drugs Trafficking read in part with section 22 (A)(9)(a)(i) of the Medicines and Related Substances Control Act were constitutionally invalid. The state additionally failed to produce any useful data to show that criminalising dagga use had led to a reduction in private usage.

If the person is suspected of dealing, Judge Zondo said the police officer may arrest the person.

Justice Raymond Zondo said he took into account worldwide law allowing the private use of dagga at home.

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He says the users of alcohol and tobacco are allowed to use these substances however they wish.

"We are looking forward to telling the police to leave us alone now", said Clarke on the decriminalisation of private use. However, private use does have the go-ahead as of Tuesday 18 September.

The judgment decriminalises the use of dagga at home.

Zondo said that this reading-in will apply until such time as Parliament fixes the Constitutional defect in the case.

Everything else - including the potential for sin taxes plus the "where and when" of how users can buy dagga - must be outlined by government.

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