The Constitutional Court’s decision to legalise the private use of cannabis

The Constitutional Court’s decision to legalise the private use of cannabis

South Africa’s Constitutional Court has passed down a judgement that makes it legal for adults to cultivate and smoke cannabis or marijuana or dagga in their homes.

In making its ruling, the Constitutional Court considered several issues. These included privacy, health concerns and the status quo in other parts of the world.

Delivering the unanimous judgment, Deputy Chief Justice Raymond Zondo stated that “the right to privacy entitles an adult person to use or cultivate or possess cannabis in private for his or her personal consumption.

And, he added, to the extent that the impugned provisions criminalise such cultivation, possession or use of cannabis, they limit the right to privacy.

From a health prospective the Court found no persuasive medical evidence that cannabis in small amounts was harmful to users, particularly compared to the harm resulting from use of alcohol. Nor was there proof that cannabis use caused violent or aggressive behaviour or that its use led to the use of more potent or dangerous drugs.

The Constitutional Court noted that the personal consumption of small quantities of cannabis had been decriminalised or legalised in many other democratic countries, 33 in fact.

The Court held that the State failed to prove that the existing limitation of privacy was reasonable and justifiable. The relevant legal provisions that criminalise personal, private use of cannabis by adults were declared unconstitutional and invalid. The order was suspended for 24 months to give Parliament time to rectify the constitutional defects.

The Court further ordered that adults who use, possess or cultivate cannabis in private for their own personal consumption are not guilty of contravening these provisions. However, it is illegal to deal in cannabis. Anybody who grows or carries cannabis for sale or supply to others is still breaking the law.