Mon, 22 Oct 2018
23
Melbourne

Editorial: It is legal, but we should criticise it

News24
23 Sep 2018, 14:37 GMT+10

When Deputy Chief Justice Raymond Zondo delivered the Constitutional Court's judgment on the private use of cannabis, the only words that most were prepared to hear were that, "as long as the use or possession of cannabis is in private and not in public, and the use or possession of cannabis is for the personal consumption of an adult, it is protected" by the right to privacy entrenched in section 14 of our Constitution.

Few heard the learned justices say that they "do not, of course, intend to minimise the fact that the use of dagga is a great social evil in South Africa".

Across the land, there was applause from the followers of the Rastafarian faith, people who swear by marijuana's health benefits, university students and stoners in general. There were protests from conservatives and anti-drug campaigners, who feel this step will exacerbate South Africa's narcotics problem and the crimes that accompany drug use and the drug trade.

Also celebrating were dagga growers, wholesalers and street traders. They seemed to have missed the court's statement that "we have no intention of decriminalising dealing in cannabis".

All things considered, this judgment was inevitable. South Africa, which often leads the world in progressive thought, was lagging behind many jurisdictions in the world, where laws have been altered alongside changed attitudes towards the limited cultivation and use of dagga.

The challenge for South Africa should be on the educational side. While we celebrate the court's decision to protect the "individual's intimate personal sphere of life ... the final untouchable sphere of human freedom that is beyond interference from any public authority", we must make sure South Africans exercise this freedom with responsibility.

Marijuana is still a drug that should be used with care and caution. It can still land you in Weskoppies, Fort Napier or Valkenberg. It can still be a gateway to harder drugs. It can still be abused by children and adults.

So, to steal from Peter Tosh, it may legalised, but we should still criticise it when we need to.

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