What to Know About South Africa's Marijuana Legalisation

People in South Africa can now legally smoke marijuana in their own homes
People in South Africa can now legally smoke marijuana in their own homes | © Thought Catalog / Unsplash

Freelance Writer - instagram.com/andrewthompsonsa

South Africa’s constitutional court has recently ruled that personal use of cannabis is no longer a criminal offence, but the landmark ruling has left more questions than answers for many of the country’s residents and visitors eager to light up.

Championed by private citizens

Until recently, all use of marijuana, also called dagga, in South Africa was totally illegal. But in 2017, a judge in the Western Cape’s High Court ruled that South Africa’s ban of the personal and private use of marijuana was an infringement on the country’s “constitutional right to privacy”.

What made the matter especially intriguing was that the case was brought to the high court by private parties – staunch proponents for marijuana legalisation Gareth Prince and The Dagga Party of South Africa.

Private and personal use of marijuana is now legal in South Africa

In the interim, the High Court ruled that anyone arrested for the personal use or possession of marijuana in their own homes would be able to defend themselves on the principal of invasion of privacy.

The highest court in South Africa agrees

One year later, South Africa’s Constitutional Court – the highest court in the country– agreed with the Western Cape High Court’s ruling. This confirmed that the personal use of cannabis, in the context of a private home, is now legal.

Although the confirmation was met with celebration from those in favour of marijuana consumption, to the point that many people sparked up on the streets outside the court, experts have warned that the ruling is slightly more complex and nuanced than many realise. In fact, those who lit up on the steps of the Conditional Court were in direct violation of the law.

The Constitutional Court of South Africa ruled in favour of legalising marijuana for personal use

Complexities of legal weed in South Africa

According to the Constitutional Court, personal marijuana use is now legal, but the judge handing down the ruling added some caveats. Deputy Chief Justice Raymond Zondo said that the judgement doesn’t specify the amount that can be used by an adult in private use; this must still be determined by South Africa’s parliament. He also clarified that “it must be for the personal use of the person”.

Two existing laws will also need to be amended by parliament, but in the interim, the ruling allows for personal use at home. Still, the ruling does not allow for a marijuana free-for-all.

Sale and dealing are still illegal

Quite how those who want to take advantage of the new laws will get hold of their marijuana is one of the main complexities. The sale and purchase of marijuana is still illegal in South Africa, and any resident or visitor found participating in these activities can face harsh penalties. It appears that those interested in making the most of the new law will have to plant their own seeds and wait for the plant to grow before smoking. But quite how much marijuana South Africans are allowed to grow and possess remains unclear, with these technicalities yet to be established or played out in a court of law.

How much marijuana South Africans are allowed to grow and possess remains unclear

Playing it safe while lighting up in South Africa

South Africa is the third country in Africa to legalise marijuana, after neighbouring Lesotho and Zimbabwe. But the legalisation in South Africa has some key differences to those around the world. The new ruling did not allow for a blanket usage of recreational marijuana as in many other countries, and so if in doubt, users should play it safe by only lighting up their own personal supply and keeping it very much behind closed doors.

landscape with balloons floating in the air


Connect with like-minded people on our premium trips curated by local insiders and with care for the world

Since you are here, we would like to share our vision for the future of travel - and the direction Culture Trip is moving in.

Culture Trip launched in 2011 with a simple yet passionate mission: to inspire people to go beyond their boundaries and experience what makes a place, its people and its culture special and meaningful — and this is still in our DNA today. We are proud that, for more than a decade, millions like you have trusted our award-winning recommendations by people who deeply understand what makes certain places and communities so special.

Increasingly we believe the world needs more meaningful, real-life connections between curious travellers keen to explore the world in a more responsible way. That is why we have intensively curated a collection of premium small-group trips as an invitation to meet and connect with new, like-minded people for once-in-a-lifetime experiences in three categories: Culture Trips, Rail Trips and Private Trips. Our Trips are suitable for both solo travelers, couples and friends who want to explore the world together.

Culture Trips are deeply immersive 5 to 16 days itineraries, that combine authentic local experiences, exciting activities and 4-5* accommodation to look forward to at the end of each day. Our Rail Trips are our most planet-friendly itineraries that invite you to take the scenic route, relax whilst getting under the skin of a destination. Our Private Trips are fully tailored itineraries, curated by our Travel Experts specifically for you, your friends or your family.

We know that many of you worry about the environmental impact of travel and are looking for ways of expanding horizons in ways that do minimal harm - and may even bring benefits. We are committed to go as far as possible in curating our trips with care for the planet. That is why all of our trips are flightless in destination, fully carbon offset - and we have ambitious plans to be net zero in the very near future.

Winter Sale Offers on Our Trips

Incredible Savings

Edit article