They might call cannabis by a different name in South Africa, but best believe that advocates in the African nation are persistent about getting “dagga” decriminalized.
Last weekend, the Western Cape province High Court ruled that sections of the Drugs and Drug Trafficking Act, 1992— particularly regarding personal use of cannabis inside of the home— are unconstitutional and should not be enforced. However, the court’s decision still has to be approved by parliament and the constitutional court.
Although this judicial process can take up to two years, local advocates consider the verdict to be small step towards decriminalization. For now, the adjudication will only pertain to this particular province, which is the fourth largest out of the nine in South Africa, and also where the city of Cape Town is located.
According to local pro-cannabis activist Julian Stobbs, users will “now have a loophole in the law” allowing them to argue that no criminal activity or harm has transpired when using cannabis within the privacy of their own home.
Back in 2010, Stobbs was arrested after police raided his home and charged him with marijuana possession. As a prominent advocate in the Western Cape province, Stobbs has warned that the ruling has more to do with privacy than cannabis use, but he’s still celebrating the decision as a minor victory. Still, if police find proof that citizens are planning to sell their product or use it in public, they can still be charged and jailed.
The community that will likely benefit the most from the pro-privacy ruling are those who practice Rastafarianism. Members of the religious group are celebrating the news with caution, however, as many look at their ceremonial use of dagga as both sacred and private. Prior to the High Court’s ruling last Friday, religious use was deemed illegal because that type of exemption would be too difficult to enforce.
This year has started off on a promising note for South Africa as a whole. In February, the government approved legislation allowing the cultivation of medical marijuana. But soon after, the progressive step was tarnished by unknown delays to the new regulations.
While the latest ruling from the High Court in the Western Cape province is certainly favorable for cannabis users, the decision to permit home use is focused more on privacy than pot. At the end of the day, full-scale decriminalization of dagga will be left in the hands of the South African Parliament.