South Africa's Constitutional Court has ruled that the private use and private cultivation of cannabis by adults in South Africa is now decriminalized. This means that adults in South Africa can grow and smoke recreational cannabis in their private residences or private areas without fear of being arrested by the country's police.

The Constitutional Court ruling comes after a Western Cape High Court judgment had stated that the possession, cultivation and use of dagga for private use was allowed. The case was then referred to the country's Constitutional Court.

"The right to privacy is not confined to a home or private dwelling. It will not be a criminal offence for an adult person to use or be in possession of cannabis in private space," said Raymond Zondo, South Africa's Deputy Chief Justice, when he handed down the ruling.

Legalize it

This is not the first time that South Africa's Constitutional Court has had to make a ruling on whether or not to decriminalize cannabis. Previously the highest court in South Africa had ruled against the legalization arguing that the parameters of the application sought were too narrow and restrictive in that it would only really legalize cannabis for use in a traditional use context, primarily for Rastafarians.

However, despite the latest Constitutional Court ruling, it's important to note that the Deputy Justice did not specify a quantity, grams, as to what can be considered legal for private cultivation or private use. This likely leaves the legal doors wide open for some who sell recreational cannabis to use the ruling to their advantage.

Different types of cannabis

Also, the ruling doesn't seem to differentiate between recreational cannabis and medicinal cannabis. Previously, there was a process which South African organizations could go through to obtain medicinal cannabis trading licenses, thus far, this process seems to have stalled with no indication in sight of whether medicinal cannabis licenses will be issued or not.

Medicinal cannabis is said to have a greater percentage of cannabidiol (CBD) to tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), the more suitable the strain is for medicinal consumption. A higher percentage of CBD makes the medicinal cannabis suitable for pain management, muscle relaxatio, etc., while a higher percentage of THC, means it is more for recreational purposes

This delay in finalizing the legal framework around medicinal cannabis has also hampered the future plans of investors and one of South Africa's leading hemp and medicinal cannabis companies, House of Hemp. As a result, Canada's LGC Capital  termitaed its investment agreement with South African cannabis grower, House of Hemp.

When LGC Capital made their initial investment into the South African company, they indicated that House of Hemp will be ramping up its R&D so that it can be able to offer high-CBD medicinal cannabis. Before that, it was one of the leading companies in Southern Africa with regards to hemp and cannabis related products with plans in place to sell and export medical cannabis out of its 40,000 square meter facility at the Dube Tradeport Zone in Kwazulu-Natal.

House of Hemp obtained a permit from South Africa's Departments of Agriculture and Health to not only import hemp, but also to legally cultivate and process it in South Africa at an industrial scale.

What are your thoughts on this ruling in South Africa?

Does this pave the way for cannabis/medical cannabis startups as we've seen in other parts of the world?

Will other Afrikan countries decriminalize cannabis?

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Cover image credit: Drew Taylor/Unsplash