Yesterday, South Africa’s supreme court unanimously legalised the private use of marijuana, upholding a lower court’s ruling that it was "unconstitutional and therefore invalid" to criminalise the drug. The ruling now allows adults to consume and grow marijuana in private and for private consumption.
Deputy Chief Justice Raymond Zondo wrote in his judgment:
"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."
While the South African government had previously vehemently opposed the legalisation, arguing that marijuana was "harmful" to people's health, the supreme court has given parliament 24 months to adopt the ruling, which is binding.
Using cannabis in public, as well as selling and supplying it, will still be illegal and parliament will be left to decide on the quantity of cannabis a person can grow or use in private. Adults who use marijuana in private will be protected by the ruling until parliament amends the law.
The landmark case was brought to the court by three cannabis users who had faced prosecution for using the drug, arguing that the ban on marijuana "intrudes unjustifiably into their private spheres". Following Zimbabwe and Lesotho, South Africa is the third country in Africa to legalise marijuana.