A day of massive celebration ensued for pro-marijuana activists in South Africa, who cheered and chanted “Weed are free now”, as the country’s highest court decriminalised the drug in a unanimous ruling earlier this week.
Various entities of the South African government, including the police, health and trade ministries, had previously opposed the legalisation of marijuana, deeming it to be dangerous for citizen’s wellbeing and more harmful than alcohol and tobacco. However, three cannabis users facing prosecution spoke out against the ban, claiming it “intrudes unjustifiably into their private spheres”.
Deputy Chief Justice Raymond Zondo of ConCourt, who delivered the judgement, stated in no uncertain terms that from now on: “It will not be a criminal offence for an adult person to use or be in possession of cannabis in private for his or her personal consumption.”
The ruling received overwhelming positive response from the public, especially from the Cannabis Development Council of South Africa, who also encouraged the government to drop the charges against those had been found in possession of it.
Cannabis use is highly popular in the country and colloquially referred to as “dagga”. In fact, the ruling was backed up by the Dagga Party, a group that has been pushing for the legalisation of the drug, with its leader, Jeremy Acton expressing that the court should have gone a step further and also made it legal to carry marijuana in public places too.
How it Will Work
While the government has a full 2 years to actually write the bill into law, the private use of weed has been given the green light as of 18h September. However, the quantities to be allowed per person will be decided upon by the ruling ANC, while Justice Zondo outlined that amounts must be strictly for personal use only.
On the bright side, adults in South Africa are now officially allowed to grow the drug and use it in their home. The finer points of the bill, such as the taxes applicable as well as how users can acquire marijuana is still to be decided on by the government.
Despite the ruling, cannabis use in public as well as its sale and supplication will remain illegal.
Cannabis Confusion in SA
Needless to say, there has been a lot of controversiality as well as confusion, surrounding the decriminalisation of the drug in South Africa. A ruling just last year by the Western Cape High Court was in favour of the drug’s legal use on private property. However, this decision was overruled by a State appeal which claimed the ruling to be ‘unconstitutional’, delaying its legalisation.
This confusion is quite similar to the country’s take on playing free casino games online, which becomes illegal in cases where gambling for real money is involved, following a recent bill by South Africa’s Gambling Authority.
Weed – Good or Bad for You?
The debate surrounding the use of cannabis both for medicinal as well as recreational use remains a question mark in many countries across the globe, from Switzerland to Canada. In recent news, brand giant Coca-Cola expressed plans to possibly launch a line of cannabis-infused drinks, in collaboration with producer Aurora Cannabis.
Naturally, the drinks would not be meant to get people high but rather to relieve pain and promote wellness, through the use of the active ingredient known as cannabidiol, one of marijuana’s major constituents.
Meanwhile, experts the world over have shown contradictory evidence for the benefits of marijuana as well as its downsides, such as the risk of psychosis and anxiety and its impact on memory and cognitive ability. There is also the argument that cannabis could be a gateway drug for cocaine and heroin.
The debate continues.