South Africa Supreme Court Legalizes Marijuana Smoking In Private Homes
By Roger Malespin
October 27th 2018 photo/istock/PromesaArtStudio
A major victory has been scored in the legalization movement in South Africa this week, as the nation’s top court legalized cannabis consumption in private residences, upholding a lower court ruling that decided it was “unconstitutional and therefore invalid” to criminalize it. The ruling also allows small amounts of planting on private property as long as it is strictly for personal use.
“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,” Deputy Chief Justice Raymond Zondo wrote in his judgment.
The legalization movement in South Africa was spearheaded largely by the Rastafarian community, who have been the victim of disproportionate and unfair scrutiny because of their religious practice of smoking ganja. One of the Rasta leaders, Lawyer Gareth Prince, petitioned the court last year after Cape Town’s law society refused to admit him because of his past marijuana convictions. Mr Prince said he would continue to smoke cannabis, or dagga as it is known in South Africa, even if it meant the end of his career.
After the ruling, many members of the Rastafarian community celebrated outside the courthouse along with Mr. Prince. "The primary issue in this case is not really cannabis, but the humanity and the dignity that has to be afforded unto Rastafari people as first nation or indigenous people of this country," he said.
The court’s rejection last year was a narrow one, with the decision citing that giving special privilege to the Rastafarian community would make policing the rest of the country difficult. However, marijuana is used throughout the country in several religious and ceremonial practices, not just the Rastafarian community.
When asked what the ruling meant for the Rastafarian community, Prince smiled and said: "No more arrest man, no more police constantly having eyes on us. At least now we can have some breathing space and do what we do best."
Of course, not everyone in South Africa agrees with the ruling. The Sinoville Crisis Centre (SCC) said that the ruling opens the door to other drug use, and questions how it will affect children and their access to marijuana. This is the same line of anti-marijuana rhetoric we see here in the U.S., the tired and widely debunked ‘slippery slope’ argument that states marijuana is a gateway drug. Additionally, is it a subtle jab at the Rasta community by suggesting that they aren’t responsible enough to understand what their children should and shouldn’t have access to.
This is a great day for South Africans, the indigenous peoples of that nation, and the cannabis community around the world. The Rastafarian Community is well capable of policing themselves when it comes to private and responsible use of marijuana, and they are much more qualified to understand how to protect their own children than an unelected advocacy group. This ruling mirrors the changes happening in our own country and around the world - people are tired of being told that they can’t be trusted to use a plant responsibly, and tired of thinly-veiled racism masquerading as protection.