South Africa’s Constitutional Court on Tuesday decriminalized [judgment, PDF] personal consumption of marijuana.
The judgement, written by Deputy Chief Justice Raymond Zondo, says that because “the [Black] population have been accustomed for hundreds of years to the use of dagga [South Africa’s colloquial term for marijuana], both as an intoxicant and in the belief that it has medicinal properties,” it can be considered discriminatory to these populations to ban it. Therefore, any prohibiting act is unconstitutional. The judgement also ruled that marijuana may benefit health, contrary to earlier studies.
The Constitutional Court of South Africa invoked its powers under Section 172(1)(b) of the nation’s founding document to defy South Africa’s Drugs Act [text, PDF], which mandated that users of marijuana receive prison sentences and/or fines. The act ranks among the world’s strictest controlled substances statutes, as “any person within 100 meters of a drug” is subject to prosecution. On Tuesday, however, its provisions involving marijuana were lifted by court order.
In March 2017 marijuana was decriminalized [News24 report] for users in the Western Cape province, but this new judgement allows for use of the drug nationwide.
Following this ruling, the magistrate has up to 24 months to change the Drugs Act. Additionally, the new provisions would only allow citizens to possess fewer than 100 grams. Regardless, celebrations [BBC report] have broken out across the country.