“Personal use of dagga is not a criminal offence” rules Constitutional Court

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Breaking news! Today the South African Constitutional Court ruled that the personal use of dagga is not a criminal offence.

In March 2017, the Western Cape High Court handed down a ruling that declared sections of the Drugs and Drug Trafficking Act invalid and unconstitutional after an application brought by Rastafarian lawyer Gareth Prince, an advocate for the decriminalisation of dagga. Prince argued that the criminalisation of dagga use, and the possession of it, was a violation of individuals’ right to equality, dignity, and freedom of religion.

Dagga

Chief Justice Zondo (who also heads up the state capture inquiry) upheld the ruling of the Western Cape High Court today in the Constitutional Court. This has effectively decriminalised the private use of dagga in South Africa.

He ruled  that Parliament must change its Drug Trafficking and Medicines Control Acts. Zondo also noted that smoking dagga publicly or selling / dealing dagga is still illegal. There were ululations inside and outside court after Zondo finished reading the historic judgment.

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So what does this mean for stoners?

This means that adults can now legally grow dagga for personal use and smoke it privately in South Africa. The court made this judgment based on medical studies that showed that alcohol caused more harm than dagga. There was little data to show that criminalising dagga reduced harmful use.

Parliament now has two years to amend the relevant laws. The court specified that it has granted interim relief that allows personal use at home. The judgement doesn’t specify the amount that can be used by an adult in private use – this must still be determined by parliament.

Can the Police arrest you for dagga possession?

The Police will need to consider all the circumstances, including the quantity of dagga found in an adult person’s possession. If the Police suspects that the person concerned is in possession of that cannabis for dealing and not for personal consumption, the officer may arrest the person. The courts will ultimately decide whether the person was in possession of cannabis with the intent to deal or for own consumption.

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What are your thoughts about this? Are you lighting up a spliff the second you get home or you against the legalisation of dagga in South Africa? Leave a comment below and state your opinion.

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