South Africa’s top court ruled Tuesday that private, personal cannabis use was legal, binging an end to a landmark case that had pitted law enforcement agencies against marijuana advocates and the judiciary.
Delivering the ruling Tuesday, Deputy Chief Justice Raymond Zondo of the Johannesburg-based Constitutional Court’s declared the law banning marijuana use in private by adults “is unconstitutional and therefore invalid”.
“It will not be a criminal offence for an adult person to use or be in possession of cannabis in private for his or her personal consumption,” he said, reading the ruling to cheers from the public gallery.
The court also directed parliament to draft new laws within 24 months to reflect the new ruling.
Outside pro-cannabis campaigners lit pipes and rolled joints to celebrate the news, filling the air with the distinctive aroma of marijuana.
“I’m happy I won’t be getting any more criminal records for possession,” Ruaan Wilson, 29, told AFP before pausing for a puff.
“Now we can get police to focus on real drugs and thugs,” he added, wearing shorts and dark sunglasses.
Activists clutching banners reading “Weed are free now” and Rastafari flags gathered outside the court in central Johannesburg.
Other boards read “Free the weed”, and “Legalise weed, end economic depression #weedislife”.
Tuesday’s ruling will not decriminalise the use of the drug in public nor the offences of supplying or dealing — but cultivation for personal, private use will no longer be illegal for adults.