Legalization of Marijuana in South Africa: A Tale of South Africa Marijuana

The Tale of South Africa Marijuana Prohibition

Another massive victory has been scored for cannabis rights. The legalization of marijuana in South Africa has just become a reality. While not fully legal just yet, South Africa marijuana prohibition is just a few formalities away from being terminated.

What does this landmark decision entail and will the nation become the third ever to fully legalize cannabis?

Legalization of Marijuana in South Africa for Recreational Use

South African Man smoke weed after South African Weed legalization
The South African constitution places a heavy emphasis on personal liberties, therefore this was the focus of cannabis legalization (image via CBS News)

Earlier today, South Africa’s Constitutional court gave its ruling that effectively ends prohibition. All judges were unanimous in their decision which is already an established law.

South Africa marijuana legalization has occurred in reverse order when compared with its Canadian counterpart. No system of retailing or commercial distribution has been established.

Instead, legalization of marijuana in South Africa has put the people first ahead of big business interests.

Deputy Chief Justice Raymond Zondo had this to say in his judgment,

“It will not be a criminal offense for an adult person to use or be in possession of cannabis in private for his or her personal consumption.”
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Previously, the government had stood in opposition to legalization, stating that cannabis’ “harmful” nature posed a public health concern. What prompted them to reverse their decision on cannabis?

The South African constitution that was forged in the battle against apartheid places a high value on personal liberties. Thus, President Cyril Ramaphosa, the Constitutional courts, and the nation viewed legalization as tantamount to its guiding principles. Thus, the freedom of South African citizens took precedence over the concern of the various governmental agencies who opposed legalization.

The legalization of marijuana in South Africa has covered only the legal aspects of drug policy. Selling and supplying the drug still remains illegal.

So how will South Africans get their cannabis? The country’s constitutional court has allowed citizens to grow the plant for personal use. Essentially, cannabis is entirely in the public’s domain.

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Issues and Ambiguities With South Africa Marijuana Legalization

South African President rubs his face
In failing to establish a system of regulation and distribution, South African Cannabis legalization cannot effectively target the black market (image via Deutsche Welle)

No System of Retail and Supply

Ultimately the legalization of marijuana in South Africa is of substantial benefit to the nation for reasons of human rights and more intelligent public policy. However, some are fearful that the nation has put the cart before the horse in legalizing cannabis before establishing a legal, regulated system of retail and distribution.

One of the stated objectives of the legalization of marijuana in South Africa was to hamstring many of the powerful criminal organizations that thrive on illicit drug revenue. In order to effectively defeat the black market, a nation must create a viable alternative where citizens can acquire cannabis. In Canada, a great deal of thought was put into how to create the most enticing cannabis economies that would out-compete the black market and thus sap away its customers.

However, by maintaining prohibition of cannabis sales and distribution, South African President Cyril Ramaphosa has misstepped. The war on drugs cannot be fought through law enforcement, a century of prohibition has taught us that. Yet this is precisely how Ramaphosa plans to continue to combat black market cannabis.

While some will undoubtedly jump at the opportunity to grow their own cannabis, many will favor the convenience and simplicity that marijuana dealer can provide. With the demand for cannabis still high and South African criminal organizations still up and running, Ramaphosa’s government may find itself in a very familiar predicament.

This is not just a victory for the criminal underworld but a loss for the Ramaphosa administration. Cannabis is a lucrative industry, and its regulation and taxation have enabled vast economic growth elsewhere. The personal freedom aspect of cannabis legalization is not to be overlooked. However, if Ramaphosa wishes to crush the black market and bolster the South African economy, full legalization will be essential.

By: Stefan Hosko
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