South Africa’s highest court legalizes cannabis for personal use

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South Africa is the country to most recently legalize cannabis.  

South Africa’s highest court has legalized using cannabis for adults in private places as well as growing cannabis for private use upon ruling that the previous law that banned cannabis is unconstitutional.

“It will not be a criminal offense for an adult person to use or be in possession of cannabis in private for his own personal consumption,” said Deputy Chief Justice Raymond Zondo.

The ruling comes after a decision made last year by a provincial court that legalizes cannabis for private use in Western Cape where the country’s capital, Cape Town, is situated.

“Obviously this judgment is only the first opening of a door, but we have two years to determine how the new law will really look. Needless to say, dagga [the South African word for marijuana] will have to be de-scheduled in the illicit drugs act and the Medicines and Related Substances Act,” said Jeremy Acton, the leader of the Dagga Party.

There is an abundance of cannabis in Africa with more than 10,000 tons being produced annually. However, South Africa is only the third country on the continent to legalize in some form.

Lesotho was the first country in Africa to grant licenses to grow cannabis for medical and research purposes last year. One of the licenses was given to South African alternative medicine company, Verve Dynamics.

“Access to medicinal cannabis on the African continent has taken another major step forward today and Verve Dynamics is honored to be the first company in Africa to have been granted regulatory approval to begin the process of growing and producing high-quality cannabis extracts commercially,” said Richard Davies of Verve Dynamics in a press release.

Zimbabwe legalized cannabis earlier this year in April.

Selling or trading marijuana in any way still remains illegal, meaning the South African government will not profit from the new ruling.

The court has given South Africa’s parliament two years to change the law to incorporate the new ruling, but adults who use cannabis for private use will be protected by the court until the law is fully amended. In the meantime, it will be up to the police to determine whether or not a person is growing or possesses the plant for personal use or is using it to sell.  

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