While the Western Cape High Court ruled on the
use of medical cannabis last year, most South Africans remain confused on the
issue, including some members of the South African Police Service.
The confusion has arisen because although
the courts ruled that the use of cannabis by people at home is now legal, the
matter was taken to the Supreme Court of Appeal where a final ruling will be
People still being arrested
The Western Cape High Court’s groundbreaking
ruling is that people may use cannabis only at their homes, and may grow their own cannabis at home.
The ruling was met with huge excitement by Rastafarians who claimed victory for
cannabis users. But months later people are still being arrested for growing
and using the herb at home.
Rastafarian Mpho Kaloto from Potchefstroom
says he thought the battle was won, and still doesn't understand why he was
“I was watching on the news last year when a
judge said we can grow dagga and smoke it in our homes, so I fail to understand
why I was arrested after my neighbours called the cops on me. I thought what I
was doing was legal,” said Jah Mpho.
The 38-year-old Rastafarian said he spent a
weekend in a holding cell and was charged with drug possession, and ordered to
pay a R500 fine.
“I spent a whole weekend in jail, and I was
fined with R500 because of two small trees that where found at my yard. Now I
have a criminal record and I'm not even a criminal. I am still confused. Right
now as I feel like the law has let us down. As Rastas, dagga is a part of how
we live,” he said.
Ruling not yet in effect
Judge Dennis Davis, who made the ruling,
said the police can still go into a home and arrest a person for cannabis, but
those arrested would be afforded the opportunity to use their right to privacy as
a defence when charged. The judge also ruled that it's not up to the courts to
decide whether or not there were social problems linked to drugs, or that drug-related
problems should be ignored, it was up to parliament.
Witness Phele, a lawyer who has represented
people accused of cannabis possession, says that the ruling hasn't come into
effect and cannabis is still illegal in South Africa.
“The case is now before the Supreme Court of
Appeal. As soon as we get an SCA Judgement the law will be applicable,” he
According to Phele, the law currently
remains the same as it was before the judgement was passed in the Western Cape
“Nothing has changed until legislature
changes the Act,” he said.
Arrested in confusion
According to Mpho, the police who arrested
him were also confused after he told them about the ruling.
“I read the ruling to them, and that
confused them. So the police arrested me in confusion, but I guess they thought
they were doing their job.”
People suffering from severe and chronic
pain related to mulitple sclerosis, cancer and HIV/Aids were expected to be the
ones to have access to medical cannabis.
Marita Schalk, who has suffered from severe
back pain and has experienced heart problems says cannabis oil has assisted her
for the past two years.
“I was living on a lot of medication until
my doctor recommended cannabis oil two years ago. It didn't remove all of my
pain, but one thing for sure is that I feel much better now. It has helped with
my heart problems, and also I used to have severe back pain all the time.
Things have improved very much and so I really hope it is legalised. People
need something like this,” she said. – Health-e News.
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