Children get cannabis rights in recent Constitutional Court ruling. Kids caught with cannabis will no longer face criminal charges, but they are not completely off the hook.
South Africa’s cannabis laws remain somewhat hazy following the Constitutional Court ruling several years ago that effectively decriminalized weed for adults. The Court gave government the usual 2 years to figure out the terms and conditions of the ruling and we all waited to exhale on what would hopefully be a broad legal system. A system that would hopefully be an inclusive economic boon for our humbly struggling nation. Optimistic economists aside though, it would of just been great to legally meet the demand of the local market. Yet we remain stuck in an awkward legal limbo until the powers that be get into gear about ganja. As we all know to well… the wheels of government turn slowly and the political potholes are deep.
Something happened while we were all moaning about the lack of progress and big business moving in on our precious Mary Jane. This is something that in hindsight was a ironically valid cry for those against any form of cannabis legalization. At every opportunity they would ask “What about the children?”
And you know what, we kind off all forgot about the children in the hype of toking our legal homegrown. We were all so focused on wanting to buy and sell weed that we overlooked something very important in the Constitutional Court’s decimalization ruling. It did not address the rights of children. Kids were as criminal as ever for using or being in possession of cannabis. And could be arrested or diverted, with possible prosecution.
Children Get Cannabis Rights
This has thankfully changed following last weeks verdict by the Constitutional Court. They explained that their latest ruling does not seek to legalise the possession or use of cannabis by children. It instead changes the outcomes for those children, as they had traditionally been handled by the criminal justice system.
“It is implausible to claim that a child has a right to the personal consumption of cannabis in private. There are valid reasons to protect children from the use of drugs.”
“This matter is about the consequences of use/and or possession of cannabis by a child … Our focus in this matter is on decriminalisation not legalisation … It is about choosing the appropriate manner in which to respond to a child using or possessing cannabis.”
“A proper approach is to look at the best interests of the child principle,”
The ruling was consistent with the local progress we are seeing toward treating cannabis use as a social issue and no longer a criminal concern. Even the government departments conceded that making criminals of kids was not appropriate, so they did not oppose the ruling. Judge Mhlantla clarified though that the ruling would not allow child possession of cannabis to be consequence free.
“This judgment does not permit a child to use and possess cannabis without consequence,”
“Nor do we decide any issue as to the criminal liability of children who might deal in cannabis or otherwise induce others to make use of it,” she said.
“I deem it necessary to reaffirm that any adult who utilises or implores a child to be in possession of cannabis or to use cannabis can be held criminally liable.”
This ruling was a wakeup call to really think about what we wish for and to consider our legal challenges to the courts. As we may well overlook other vital aspects of cannabis reform in our enthusiasm.