The highest court in South Africa has legalized the use of cannabis in private places. While the move has been received warmly by some, the landmark ruling disagrees with the attitude of many government officials.
The court also voted unanimously to allow cannabis cultivation for private use. Pro-weed advocates chanted in the public gallery “Weed are free now” after the decision came down.
But the legality of cannabis is not yet a totally settled question. While private use and cultivation is now legal, the buying, selling, or distributing of it is not. Nor is the use of cannabis in public.
Even the details of the new ruling are yet to be hammered out. The court still has not decided what amount of cannabis is okay to possess and what amount isn’t.
Meanwhile, some higher-ups in the government are likely none too pleased. According to the BBC, the government has opposed legalization, arguing that marijuana was “harmful” to the health of its people.
The ruling came after three cannabis users who faced prosecution brought the case before South Africa’s Constitutional Court, saying that the ban on weed “intrudes unjustifiably into their private spheres.”
In his ruling, Deputy Chief Justice Raymond Zondo said: “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 decision could have major effects on South African society. Like in the United States, the enforcement of marijuana laws have disproportionately targeted a section of the population. In this case the BBC says that the country’s criminal justice system “routinely locks up thousands of overwhelmingly poor South Africans for using or dealing in small amounts of cannabis.”
The decision gave parliament two years to adjust its cannabis laws. Until then, adults who use cannabis in private will be protected by the ruling.
Photo via Flickr user Steven dosRemedios