Cannabis is Being Legalized in South Africa and This is What it Means

On April 1st, the High court of South Africa ordered for cannabis to be made legal for personal use in the home. The Dagga Party leader Jeremy Acton has equated this move with privacy in the home as well as legal freedom for Rastafarians. Cape Town was filled with clouds only minutes after the ruling, but citizens have been urged to not indulge just yet.

The order began by ruling sections of the Drug and Drug Trafficking act and Medicines and Related Substances act unconstitutional, however, we haven’t been given the red light just yet. Police can still arrest a person for possession of cannabis and public use is still illegal. The problem here is that the law has made privacy the main objective and not social issues surrounding cannabis. This order does not mean it is now legal for medicinal purposes, but rather religious and cultural reasons.

Rastafarianism in South Africa has a deep history. Those who practice the religion have been targeted by laws in this country throughout it’s history. In 1752, colonizers referred to the plant as “making man monstrously drunk” and this type of thinking continued well into the 21st century. While it was perfectly legal until the Medical, Dental and Pharmacy Act 13 of 1928, those who smoked it were demonized by the state.

Now the culture surrounding cannabis use is still seen as negative. The legalization process in South Africa has been said to take about 24 months but in the meantime here is what the legalization will mean. It will be legal to cultivate cannabis and use it privately, and so both those who practice Rastafarianism and recreational users will finally have privacy in their own homes. This means that the negative stigma of cannabis will begin to lift, slowly. Conservative people do still condemn consuming cannabis.

Cannabis use has always been deemed immoral in South Africa. Institutions such as the family and education continue to heavily indoctrinate youths about the ‘dangers’ of cannabis. Now, however, they have little basis to argue that it’s use is wrong. People with mental or physical impediments will finally have the freedom to say “this plant is legal and I have the constitutional right to use it privately”.

A cannabis user does not negatively affect anybody else. Whether people use it to treat illness, to open up their creative energies or just to relax and have fun, now we are to do so in the privacy of our own homes. The law can now focus on more pressing matters than people lighting up. Crime in South Africa is at an all time high, why should prisons be filled with peaceful people taking part in a wonderful culture that is cannabis? While the legalization is not complete yet, at least the future looks bright and smokey.

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