South Africa’s top court legalises use of cannabis

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(FILES) In this file photo taken on May 5, 2018 a protester holds a flag with an image of a cannabis leaf during a protest calling for the legalisation of cannabis in South Africa in front of the South African Parliament in Cape Town. South Africa's top court will rule on September 18, 2018 on whether private cannabis use should be legal, the climax of a case that has pitted officials against marijuana advocates and the judiciary. A court in the Western Cape region ruled in March that a ban on cannabis use by adults at home was unconstitutional, effectively decriminalising it in the province that includes Cape Town. / AFP PHOTO / RODGER BOSCH

South Africa’s highest court has legalized the use of cannabis by adults in private places. Pro-marijuana activists cheered in the public gallery and chanted “Weed are free now” when the Constitutional Court gave its landmark ruling. In a unanimous ruling, judges also legalized the growing of marijuana for private consumption. South Africa’s government’s had opposed its legalization, arguing the drug was “harmful” to people’s health. It has not yet commented on the ruling, which is binding. Three cannabis users who had faced prosecution for using the drug brought the case, saying the ban “intrudes unjustifiably into their private spheres”.In his judgement, Deputy Chief Justice Raymond Zondo said: “It will not be a criminal offense for an adult person to use or be in possession of cannabis in private for his or her personal consumption.”

It will, however, remain illegal to use cannabis in public, and to sell and supply it. The Cannabis Development Council of South Africa welcomed the ruling, and called on the government to drop charges against people found in possession of the drug. Jeremy Acton, the leader of the Dagga Party, which campaigns for the use of cannabis, said the ruling should have gone further to legalize the carrying of marijuana in public. Cannabis is referred to as “dagga” in South Africa. The court gave parliament 24 months to change the law to reflect its ruling. Adults who used marijuana in private would be protected by the ruling until the law was amended. The court did not specify the quantity of cannabis a person can grow or use in private. Parliament would have to decide on this, it said. In April Zimbabwe became the second country in Africa, after Lesotho, to legalize the use of marijuana for medical use.

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