Dagga fever is taking the nation by storm after the Constitutional Court ruling that the plant be decriminalised. Here’s what you need to know so far.
Let me start off by saying that decriminalisation of cannabis is a huge step forward for South Africa but it has created perhaps more questions than it has answered. We’ve since spent the last week answering just about every kind off question on the matter and hope that the below answers help clear the air a bit.
Legalised for private growing and consuming
The original ruling by the Cape Town High Court was that cannabis be legalised for possession and use only within a private dwelling. The constitutional court has however expanded on that so that your may grow or consume the plant within any private place, “The issue of the cultivation of cannabis in private by an adult for personal consumption in private should not be dealt with on the basis that the cultivation must be in a dwelling or private dwelling. It should be dealt with simply on the basis that the cultivation of cannabis by an adult must be in a private place and the cannabis so cultivated must be for that adult person’s personal consumption in private.”
Transporting your weed
This is is something that the Constitutional Court also foresaw as a potential problem. So they expanded the ruling to also include personal privacy such as on your person, in your luggage or in a motor vehicle. You can therefore now legally posses a reasonable amount of cannabis on you at all times without the fear of being arrested. The ruling however did not define what this amount is or at what point a person would be considered a dealer, but more on that later.
You can’t buy or sell it
This is likely where the decriminalization ruling will cause the most rub. While you are allowed to cultivate your own cannabis you are not permitted to sell or trade in it. The Court explained that they did not seek to fully legalize the plant and that they unfortunately could not make a decision on trade as it had not been addressed by any of the plaintiffs or previous court rulings; effectively creating what is now a half pregnant situation.
You will technically still be acquiring your weed, seeds or oil illegally… so please be cautious as this is one aspect in which you can still get nailed by the cops.
The existing prosecutions continue
Shortly after the ruling the National Prosecuting Authority announced that is would be business as usual for them and that any person who had already been arrested on cannabis only charges prior to the ruling would continue to be prosecuted. While this seems like a confusing stance to take, some have speculated that it may be a last ditch effort for prosecuting authorities to keep there arrest numbers up. Either way it appears to be a stubborn approach to take when the NPA should surely be focusing its efforts on far more pressing matters.
The 3kg Limit
What came as very surprising news though was the recent instruction by the South African Police Service to its officers to stop arresting and prosecuting people who have 3kg’s or less of cannabis. This was such surprising news that we contacted the SAPS Colonel directly and he confirmed that this is a legitimate instruction, but that it was only a temporary thing until the SAPS figured out its official legal stance. This certainly gives more clarity on how thing stand now although there remains to still be considered on the nitty gritty of it all.
What about hemp and medicine
This is where things get interesting. Hemp and medicinal cannabis are arguably the most pressing contextual needs in SA yet this ruling has possibly excluded them and left them to fall under future legislation of their own. This means that there remains much ambiguity on whether you could grow your own house or score your meds at the local Dischem.
Work place testing
Something that is certain to become almost immediately contentious is the testing of employees for cannabis. It would be unreasonable to suddenly expect employers to suddenly permit cannabis use, particularly for jobs that might not be best performed while high. We’ve heard rumors of certain large brands already discontinuing their policies of testing employees while other companies are likely to grapple with this for quite some time.
Driving while high
This is again certain to cause lots of confusion. The Constitutional Court went to great length to explain that this is something that would be hard for officers to identify unless you are obviously driving erratically or at a stop sign waiting for it to turn green.
What happens next
Parliament has 24 months to now ammend all the exyting drug and medicines Acts to accomadate the decriminalization of Dagga as well as formulate the rules that will now need to be applied. Should they fail to do so the Constitutional Court ruling will come into effect as is.