Ganja good at home, not in street

2018-09-20 06:01
Local Rastafari Lunga Smile lights one up following the landmark ruling by the Constitutional Court this week.PHOTOS: Velani Ludidi

Local Rastafari Lunga Smile lights one up following the landmark ruling by the Constitutional Court this week.PHOTOS: Velani Ludidi

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The highest court in the country has spoken: You are now allowed to smoke and grow dagga at your home.

This week, the Constitutional Court found that a ban on the private use and cultivation of dagga is unconstitutional. The unanimous judgment decriminalises adults smoking dagga at home and growing enough of the plant for personal consumption.

But the judgment clearly states that dagga may not be smoked publicly, and dealing or selling of the substance is still illegal.

Following the judgment on Tuesday 18 September, Rastafari Lunga “LNG” Smile said the local Rastafari community had expected the court to rule in users’ favour. “There was always hope,” the Lwandle resident told City Vision. “It has been a journey for which we have been longing for a positive outcome. I have been planting ganja for some time, the government has been lagging behind.”

The court considered and accepted medical studies that show alcohol caused more harm than dagga, and that there was little data to show that criminalising dagga reduced harmful use. Parliament has two years to amend the relevant laws.

Meanwhile, the court specified it has granted interim relief that allows personal use at home.

Furthermore, Smile argued that the word “dagga” is derogatory. “We don’t like it as Rastafarians because it deems ganja to be a drug. Alcohol is a drug, but was never criminalised. Instead it is advertised everywhere.”

He said the judgment meant that the Rastafari community is free to practise their rituals without fear of being harassed by police, but he also questioned what would happen to those arrested for being in possession of dagga. “Are we going to be able to sue the state now that ganja is allowed?” he asked “Will those in jail be released? These are the things we still need to consider when reading this judgment, because it is also an admission of the state that they were wrong in criminalising ganja.”

Smile further expressed his concern that people may possibly need to acquire a licence before they can grow weed in their homes.

Parliament will discuss the judgment and expand on it for the public to explain its limitations. The judgment is considered a landmark by many.

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