In September 2018, the Constitutional Court ruled that it is not a criminal offence for an adult citizen to use, possess or grow cannabis in private for personal consumption.
The court gave parliament 24 months from the date of the judgment to bring the ruling in line with South African laws, with a new bill expected to be released soon, said Julie Oppenheim, a partner at law firm Bowmans.
Below, Oppenheim outlined the current position of cannabis in South African law, ahead of the introduction of the new regulations.
The line between private and public use
One of the few facts we know for sure about cannabis regulation right now is that using or growing it in private for your personal use is your own business, said Oppenheim.
“Every citizen has the right to privacy and this right informed the Constitutional Court’s decision in the famous cannabis case of September 2018,” she said.
However, the legal expert said that the Constitutional Court did not define the scope of private, rather leaving this to the discretion of those who enforce the law – the police, prosecutors and the courts.
The judgment did, however, expand private use, possession or cultivation of cannabis beyond a home or private dwelling, she said.
“This makes sense as the sphere of privacy naturally extends to one’s person, one’s car, one’s handbag, for example, and searching any of these would be an infringement on the right to privacy.
“This is why the state is required to have reasonable grounds for doing so.”
It also seems (although not explicit from the Constitutional Court’s judgment) that in addition to the use of cannabis beyond one’s home, it may be permissible to use cannabis together with friends and family – provided that they are