Marijuana has been decriminalised following a ruling delivered at the Constitutional Court on Tuesday, September 17

Members of the Wits University community have welcomed the landmark ruling of the Constitutional Court which has effectively decriminalised the possession of marijuana for private use.

In his judgement on Tuesday, September 17, Deputy Chief Justice Raymond Zondo explained, that the interference of the State in private matters such as the cultivation and consumption of cannabis was “unconstitutional and therefore invalid”.

The ruling means that individuals are now allowed to grow and consume cannabis in their private residences but the buying and selling of the drug remains illegal. While the ruling appears straight-forward it is unclear as to how the ruling will affect students living in residences on or off campus.

“The university has noted the decision made by the Constitutional Court and will review the full judgment before commenting. It will also reflect on how the judgement will be implemented through Parliament, which has 24 months to determine the specifics around this matter,” said Dean of Student Affairs Jerome September.

“The university will then consult with the university community and other relevant stakeholders and experts to determine how the new legislation may impact on the university’s policies. For now, the rules as specified in the Students’ Code of Conduct remain,” September added.

The Wits Students’ Code of Conduct states that students are prohibited from consuming, distributing, having in their possession or being under the influence of “any illegal substance which alters behaviour, except for a substance prescribed for that student by a registered health professional” on campus.

For years Witsies have congregated for their regular weed smoke at the Bozzoli stands on East Campus but following the ruling there is a call to make ‘Jamaica’, as it is affectionately referred to, an official designated area similar to designated tobacco smoking areas.

Lerato Moela, a Law Student Council member, believes that the decriminalisation of marijuana should work the way tobacco smoking regulations do.

“It should be regulated the same way as cigarettes. The University should make a designated area for cannabis smokers. They should be treated in equal capacity,” Moela said.

Moela, a fourth-year LLB student, said that he supported the ruling because of the religious liberation it gave to Rastafarianism which makes extensive use of marijuana.

“I support the decriminalisation of marijuana from a religious perspective. I support the plight of these people because weed is central to their religion. To illegalise weed is taking away from the essence of the Rasta. So this is a victory for them.”

Visiting lecturer, James Grant, who holds a PhD in criminal law, said the ruling was limited and has opened up a number of questions. “They answered the question they were asked. But they should have gone further. They should have given clarity on a number of issues such as what qualifies as a large quantity, and what constitutes a private space”

The ruling gives Parliament 24 months to amend the relevant sections of the Drugs Act and the Medicines Act which are now invalid.

FEATURED IMAGE: Wits weed smokers hope that the university will give them a designated dagga smoking area                              Photo: Tshego Mokgabudi


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