The minister of police has issued a stern warning to illegal drug traders to not get too comfortable, as he is coming after them for dealing in dagga.
This follows the Constitutional Court of South Africa’s ruling that the use and cultivation of dagga for personal use is to be legalised.
Minister Bheki Cele addressed a crowd at the 26th Annual Police Music and Cultural Association (Polmusca) Unity Festival held at Kimberley’s Galeshewe Stadium on 20 September.
He also handed over 28 brand-new police vehicles to illustrate the commitment to making South Africans feel safe.
Delegates who attended the event include: Sylvia Lucas, Northern Cape premier, Lebogang Motlhaping, MEC for Safety and Liaison in the province, Gen. Khehla Sitole, national commissioner of the South African Police Service, Lt Gen. Franscinah Vuma, president of Polmusca and Lt Gen. Risimati Shivuri, provincial police commissioner.
In a landmark judgement, the apex court declared section 4(b) and section 5(b) of the Drugs Act and section 22A(9)(a)(i) of the Medicines Act constitutionally invalid.
According to Deputy Chief Justice Raymond Zondo’s judgement, the criminalisation of dagga in a person’s home or private dwelling infringes on the right to privacy, therefore deeming it incorrect to charge an adult under the above three sections.
Parliament is now still to determine the amount of dagga that an adult may use, possess or cultivate in order for it to amount to personal use.
The court has also given Parliament an opportunity to correct the constitutional defects in two of the acts.
Once Parliament has corrected the defects, the court said, police officers as enforcers of the law must consider all the circumstances and the quantity of dagga found in an adult person’s possession in order to charge them.
According to the judgement, a police officer may arrest the person on reasonable grounds if suspected of being in possession of dagga, with concern that the possession is for dealing and not for personal consumption.
The court will ultimately decide whether the person was in possession of dagga with the intent to deal, or for their own personal use.
Cele warned that the police would carry with them a scale to measure the amount of dagga they find in an individual’s possession, in order to make an arrest when the need arises.
“You can smoke dagga now. That is what Judge Zondo said. But he still instructed us that we can arrest you for dagga if we find you in possession of big bulks,” said Cele.
“Don’t think you are off the hook yet. We still have to arrest those who carry big bulks, we still have to know how much you plant at your house, we still have to know that you don’t smoke dagga in public and in the presence of children.”