The Constitutional Court of South Africa unanimously ruled on Sept. 18 to legalize cannabis cultivation and private use for adults. Following Lesotho and Zimbabwe, South Africa is the third country in Africa to legalize cannabis in one form or another.
According to the United States government, cannabis is “widely cultivated” in South Africa, and South African farms yield 4,528 metric tons of cannabis per year. That’s the equivalent of 9,982,531 pounds of cannabis.
The move was prompted by three South African citizens who face prosecution for cannabis-related charges, and cited privacy laws were being violated. Rastafarian Garreth Prince was among the activists calling for cannabis reform in South Africa’s High Court. South African leaders determined that the ban on cannabis violates section 14 of the South African constitution, the part of the constitution that protects privacy for its citizens.
Deputy Chief Justice Raymond Zondo said in his ruling, “It will not be a criminal offence for an adult person to use or be in possession of cannabis in private for his or her personal consumption.”
According to BBC, the implications of the ruling—by anyone’s standards—are far-reaching. Before the ruling, frequently poor South Africans caught with small amounts of cannabis are tossed into prison.
One significant feature of legalized cannabis is absent under the ruling, however. The government has not approved any regulated system, such as the way cannabis is regulated like alcohol in several American states. Also missing from the ruling is the personal limit, which will be determined by the parliament. In South Africa, cannabis is called dagga, and consumption is very common as it is in the United States and Europe.
The court gave South Africa’s parliament 24 months to update its laws to suffice the ruling, however anyone who currently consumes cannabis in private will be protected under the ruling. The news comes shortly after renowned South African Elon Musk smoked a blunt during a live interview.
JUDGMENT: The criminal prohibition of possession, use or cultivation of cannabis by an adult person for personal consumption in private is an infringement of the right to privacy of an adult person and constitutionally invalid. (Minister of Justice v Prince) pic.twitter.com/IwA35T4QE7
— Constitutional Court (@ConCourtSA) September 18, 2018