Green light for new dagga law could take a while, Parliament warns

Smoking dagga on the steps of the High Court. (Jenni Evans, News24)
Smoking dagga on the steps of the High Court. (Jenni Evans, News24)

Cape Town - Parliament has to wait until the Constitutional Court has confirmed the Western Cape High Court's landmark judgment on private dagga use before it can make any changes to the law, it said in a statement on Friday.

"If the two laws mentioned have been found to be unconstitutional, then the Constitutional Court would have to confirm the judgment before Parliament can act," spokesperson Moloto Mothapo said.

He noted that the State could also appeal the ruling of the judges.

Earlier, Judge Dennis Davis handed down a unanimous judgment that found that it was an infringement of the constitutional right to privacy to ban the use of dagga by adults at home.

Dagga was not legalised, but Davis and his fellow judges Nolwazi Boqwana and Vincent Saldanha gave Parliament two years to correct laws that relate to dagga so that the constitutional right to privacy for an adult at home is not infringed upon.

They also ordered that the right to privacy may be used as a defence by those charged with possession, cultivation or use of dagga in the privacy of their own home. 

Parliament studying judgment

Mothapo said that once litigation relating to Friday's judgment was finalised, the Constitutional Court would have to confirm the judgment.

Parliament then had to rectify the defects the judges identified in the laws.

He said there were several options for doing so, including:

- Dealing with the defects in terms of the Medical Innovation Bill currently before Parliament, and first introduced by the late IFP MP Mario Oriami-Ambrosini as a Private Member's Bill;
- Parliament introducing a new bill;
- The executive introducing a new bill.

But in the meantime, Parliament would study the judgment.

Earlier on Friday Dagga Party leader Jeremy Acton, who brought the action with Rastafarian Gareth Prince, cautioned that the order only applies to dagga use at home, and does not cover public use.

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