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The Story of South Africa Legalizing Marijuana

Marijuana, known as dagga in South Africa, is among the highly abused drugs worldwide. It is mainly derived from the flowers of the hemp plant. However, marijuana is sold as a mixture of the dried seeds, flowers, leaves, and stems of this Indian hemp plant. It comes in green, gray, or brown colors. This drug, toxipedia reports, has more than 400 chemicals. The chemical responsible for its intoxicating effects is THC, short for tetrahydrocannabinol.

Another significant chemical in marijuana is CBD, the short form of cannibidiol. This substance is mostly associated with the medical benefits of marijuana and is the reason many countries have legalized medicinal marijuana. The debate on legalizing dagga in South Africa is almost two decades old. Considering a report published in February 2017 and a ruling handed down on March 2017, South Africa may be joining a few other nations that have either legalized or decriminalized marijuana. These nations include the Netherlands, Switzerland, Colombia, Canada, Portugal, Spain, and a few states in the U.S. Let us review the case of legalizing dagga in South Africa.

Legalization of Medical Marijuana

According to reports, painstainkingly updated here, the South African government has made its first official statement regarding its intentions to legalize the production of dagga for clinical purposes. MCC (Medical Control Council), South Africa's drug regulations authority, announced that it was soon going to publish the rules regarding the production of the drug. In the meantime, the Act on Medicines and Related Substances has set out the rules for the consumption of dagga for clinical reasons.

Provisions of the Act on Medicines and Related Substances

= Physicians are allowed to request permission from the MCC to prescribe unregistered drugs such as cannabis, for patients.

= Only registered physicians can request permission to prescribe unregistered drugs

= Authorization will be based on acceptable grounds for the intended use of the drug

Consumption of Marijuana at Home is Not Illegal

Following the release of the report regarding the legality of medicinal marijuana, a High Court ruling was delivered by Justice Dennis Davis on 31st March rendering parts of the Drugs and Drug Trafficking Act unconstitutional. The ruling followed an application by Jonathan Ruben, Jeremy Acton, and Gareth Prince that criminalization of Marijuana use and possession violated the rights of dignity, equality, and the freedom of religion.

When delivering his ruling, Davis addressed the issue within the grounds of a person's right to privacy. Prince had fronted the argument on privacy, where he said that there was no reasonable justification for making a distinction between tobacco, alcohol, and dagga. A few years back, Prince had challenged the legality of the Drugs and Drug Trafficking Act on the basis that it went against his right of worship since smoking marijuana was part of the Rastafarian tradition.

Davis, before making his ruling, sought to distinguish the ruling of the former claim by Prince and the current claim. The former case was based on the infringement on the right to one's religion while the latter was based on the legality of the general prohibition of the drug. According to the ruling by Davis, it was unconstitutional to prohibit a person from smoking or cultivating marijuana at their private premises. This act amounted to an infringement of one's right to privacy.


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