"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," said Raymond Zondo earlier today. And with those words, the Deputy Chief Justice of South Africa's highest court signaled that cannabis possession is now legal on the southernmost tip of the African continent.
The case that led to this judgment involved three South Africans who were arrested for private cannabis consumption, and the defendants fought the charges all the way up to the Constitutional Court. The justices viewed the case as an issue of privacy and the right for citizens to do as they wish in their own homes, and they unanimously voted to legalize the private adult use of cannabis and the right to grow the plant for personal use.
Upon hearing the ruling, activists outside the courthouse began to celebrate and chant, "Weed the people!"
The government largely opposed legalization, but parliament must now pass legislation that reflects the ruling within the next 24 months. The lawmakers must also hammer out out the specifics, such as the amount of cannabis a person can possess at any given time, but adult use became legal immediately.
Despite legalizing private use, the courts did not legalize public use, which prompted one local to tweet, "I guess if you live on the street you can't be arrested for smoking, because that's your home." Likewise, the court did not legalize the sale of cannabis, which means the government cannot collect tax revenue on cannabis. Since legalization is happening anyway, don't be surprised if parliament passes legislation to allow sales that it can tax and regulate.
Lesotho and Zimbabwe previously legalized medical cannabis, but South Africa is the first country on the continent to legalize recreational.