South Africa’s highest court legalized the possession and use of cannabis on Tuesday in what is being called a landmark ruling for South African liberty.
Because of the unanimous ruling, South African adults can even grow their own marijuana for personal use, so long as they are not selling or distributing it.
Deputy Chief Justice Raymond Zondo declared cannabis prohibition for use by adults in private as “unconstitutional and therefore invalid.”
However, many South African government departments, including the ministries of health and justice oppose the law, claiming “objective proof of the harmful effects of cannabis,” locally known as “Dagga.”
“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.” – Raymond Zondo, Deputy Chief Justice
Although South African marijuana activists such as Jeremy Acton, the head of the Dagga party, believe that the ruling should have extended into the public carrying of cannabis, activists were heard chanting “weed are free now” as the South African Constitutional Court gave its ruling.
The ruling is currently being praised as proof that the South African constitution is one of the most liberal in the world, but the reason for lifting the ban in the first place is a very libertarian one, with marijuana activists claiming that the law “intruded unjustifiably into their private spheres.“
To libertarians, the law simply represents the South African government’s respect for an individual’s right to privacy and to put what they want into their own bodies.
South Africa does, like many other countries, have a problem with locking up non-violent and typically poor offenders for simply possessing or trading relatively small amounts of cannabis.
Many South African residents are glad that they’ll no longer be treated as criminals. Until now, cannabis possession could lead to fines of one hundred dollars and jail times.
“I’m happy I won’t be getting any more criminal records for possession. Now we can get police to focus on real drugs and thugs.” Ruaan Wilson, 29
It’s entirely possible that the ruling will undermine some of the government’s authoritarian control over individuals while also helping stop the drug gangs – why buy cannabis from dealers when you can grow it yourself?
The ruling does have flaws however, as the amount of cannabis a person can grow or have in possession was not specified, but the court gave South African parliament 24 months to change the laws to better reflect this ruling.
“The ruling means South Africans can light up a joint in their homes or grow marijuana for private use at home. Two of South Africa’s neighbors have already legalized the use of cannabis. Lesotho was the first country to allow the legal use of marijuana. In May this year, Zimbabwe became the second African nation to legalize growing marijuana for medicinal and research purposes.” – Patricia Arowa, Reuters reporter
As with any product, restricting supply through regulation does not change demand, therefore driving markets underground resulting in higher gang activity and lower safety surrounding the product.
When a supply of drugs is reduced, the gangs which produce the drugs gain more control over prices and quality, which means a greater incentive to deal more drugs.
If South Africa wants to solve their drug and gang problems, they should look toward further legalization. Government ought to be a force for preserving liberty, not a means of stopping people from deciding what does or doesn’t go into their own bodies.
This article (South Africa Legalizes Cannabis in Big Win for for Pro-Marijuana Activists) was originally published by Phillip Schneider and may be re-posted freely with proper attribution, author credit, and this copyright statement.