South Africa’s highest court has decriminalised the private possession and cultivation of cannabis for personal use.
The Constitutional Court ruled that prohibiting such activities within an individual's home is a violation of the right to privacy. The Court acknowledged the lack of evidence that criminalisation reduces cannabis use, and accepted data from medical studies demonstrating that alcohol is more dangerous than cannabis, according to local publication Times Live.
Public cannabis use, and private or public use by minors, remain illegal.
The Court chose not to define a threshold quantity for possessing or cultivating cannabis for “personal use”, with Deputy Chief Justice Raymond Zondo stating that this is a decision that should be made by Parliament. Until then, Zondo said, individual police officers must make decisions on a case-by-case basis; if the quantity discovered exceeds the officer’s perception of “personal”, the person in possession can be arrested. This potentially creates a loophole through which people may continue to face arrest for cannabis possession despite the ruling.
The Court ruled that existing legislation prohibiting the personal possession, use, and cultivation of cannabis is invalid, effective immediately. The Court issued the government with 24 months to “correct the defect” legislatively, News 24 reports.