Cheers erupt as private dagga use is made legal

Concourt gives go-ahead to cultivate and use herb in one’s own home

A man holds a sign reading “Dagga is my right” outside the Constitutional Court in Johannesburg on Tuesdayon September 18, 2018, as South Africa’s top court ruled over a law banning cannabis use. - Deputy Chief Justice Raymond Zondo , delivers the Johannesburg-based Constitutional Court’s unanimous verdict, saying the law banning marijuana use in private by adults “is unconstitutional and therefore invalid”.
A man holds a sign reading “Dagga is my right” outside the Constitutional Court in Johannesburg on Tuesdayon September 18, 2018, as South Africa’s top court ruled over a law banning cannabis use. - Deputy Chief Justice Raymond Zondo , delivers the Johannesburg-based Constitutional Court’s unanimous verdict, saying the law banning marijuana use in private by adults “is unconstitutional and therefore invalid”.
Image: AFO/ Wikus de Wet

Cheers emanated from the Constitutional Court in Johannesburg on Tuesday with the unanimous decision to decriminalise the personal possession, cultivation and use of dagga.

In a historic move the Constitutional Court upheld the 2017 judgment by Western Cape High Court Judge Dennis Davis that criminalisation of the use of dagga at home went against the constitutional right to privacy.

Deputy Chief Justice Raymond Zondo, delivering the verdict, said: “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.” The court also ordered parliament to draft new laws within 24 months to reflect the order.

But the highest court in the land said dagga was not to be smoked publicly and dealing is still illegal.

Rastafarian Garreth Prince Dagga Party leader Jeremy Acton brought the case. Multiple government departments have appealed, wanting dagga use at home to remain criminalised.

In a recent case Kailyn Austin and Darryl Clarke were charged in the East London magistrate’s court with dealing in cannabis and “magic mushrooms”. Speaking to the Dispatch after the Tuesday ruling Austin said she was uncertain how the finding would affect her case and others but she was hopeful.

The East London resident said she was “very happy” with the finding – a step in the right direction.

Myrtle Clarke of the Dagga Couple, who were in Chinsta this weekend to speak at The Rainbow Warrior Festival, said: “We are absolutely elated. We really are. Government and our opponents have lost fair and square.”

Clarke said the couple and their legal team were still combing the 72-page judgment and the situation around cannabis, including its purchasing and sale, would “become clearer as time goes on”.

“This two-year period was always going to be a grey area,” she said, adding that only time would tell how police would treat the plant’s users.

The activist said she and Jules Stobbs would continue to fight to have their slate wiped clean. They are out on bail after being charged with possession and dealing in 2010. Clarke believes that if they can have their record cleared that would open the door for others to do the same.

There were mixed feelings on the judgment in Mthatha, with some describing it as progressive and long overdue and others worrying it would contribute to more crime.

A former municipal public accounts committee chairman at KSD, Pasika Nontshiza, welcomed the ruling as revolutionary and progressive.

“Obviously for medical purposes but we would need to ensure that there were regulations put in place,” he said. “But we need to understand that private use must not mean using it in your house only.”

Mthatha attorney and WSU’s convocation president Zincedile Tiya, who previously publicly applauded the Western Cape High Court ruling, gave a thumbs-up, saying people who were trying to make a living were being persecuted by the law for trading in dagga.

“For a long time, people in the former Transkei have been forced conform to the Transkei penal code of 1886 which prohibited possession and use of the dagga. Our problem is that Roman Dutch law was made by white people to suit them and to make them seem superior.

“Look how they shame polygamy because it is not in their culture.”

He said in Mpondoland, for example, people used dagga because of its renowned healing properties. “They treat things like asthma.”

But above all, he felt there was much wider usage possible, including ointments, medicines fabrics and ropes.

The Constitutional Court has ruled in favour of the use and possession of dagga for private use. We listed some of the best #dagga memes we found on Twitter.

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