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South Africa’s Constitution Court Legalizes Marijuana

South Africa is joining a gradual list of countries around the world legalizing and decriminalizing cannabis.

In a unanimous ruling on September 19 by the country’s highest court, the Constitutional Court, legal adults in South Africa are now allowed to use and grow cannabis in private places, as well as for private usage.

However, the usage and distribution of the drug in public will still remain illegal under national laws and regulations. The ruling states that two sections of a 1992 law and one section of a 1965 law violated a citizen’s constitutional right to privacy, after three cannabis users who had encountered criminal prosecution for drug usage brought the case to the court located in the country’s judicial capital city of Bloemfontein.

The high court gave the national parliament in Cape Town two years to change or modify the law in order to legally reflect its ruling. Adults who used cannabis in private would be protected by the court’s ruling until the law was properly amended. The court’s judges did not specify the amount of cannabis a person can legally grow or use in private. South Africa is not the only country to legalize or decriminalize cannabis in the Southern African region or the entire continent of Sub-Saharan Africa.

The landlocked country of Lesotho became the first country in Africa to legalize and decriminalize cannabis by allowing licenses for the marijuana cultivation for medical and scientific purposes back in 2017.  Nearby in Zimbabwe, in 2018, the post-Mugabe government in Harare permitted its adult citizens to apply for legal government licences to grow cannabis for medical and scientific purposes.

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