South Africa Legalizes Private Use of Marijuana

In a landmark ruling, Minister of Justice and Constitutional Development v Prince, the Constitutional Court of South Africa in Johannesburg declared in a unanimous decision that adults are entitled to grow and consume cannabis in non-public spaces.

Police arresting a Rastafarian in South Africa (Public domain)

Police arresting a Rastafarian in South Africa (Public domain)

In a landmark ruling, Minister of Justice and Constitutional Development v Prince, the Constitutional Court of South Africa in Johannesburg declared in a unanimous decision that adults are entitled to grow and consume cannabis in non-public spaces. Chief Justice Raymond Zondo stated that adults have a right to privacy and therefore, any laws banning the use of marijuana in private was unconstitutional. Significantly, the ruling imposed no limits on quantities to carry, consume, or grow. The Court left that task up to parliament. The government has been given 24 months to draft a bill to implement these changes.

Gareth Prince, a Rastafarian and the plaintiff in the case, argued in favor of the use of marijuana on religious grounds. He told the BBC that he is “cautiously optimistic” about the court decision.

This ruling is the latest development in a long struggle by Prince to legalize marijuana, commonly known as “dagga” in South Africa. A trained lawyer, he was refused admission to the Cape Law Society in 2002, because of two prior convictions for possession of dagga.

“I feel that it is a step in the right direction.,” Prince continued about the latest ruling. “We still got a very long way to go.”

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