South Africa’s Constitutional Court Tackles Youth Cannabis Possession And Use

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South Africa is one of at least three countries that had landmark cannabis court rulings issued in recent years that determined national cannabis prohibition to be unconstitutional. Mexico and Italy also had similar court decisions rendered by their top courts around the same time.

For the decision in South Africa specifically, the Court determined that cannabis prohibition as it applied to personal possession and use by adults was unconstitutional. Unfortunately, the Court did not address prohibition policies as they apply to youth.

A lower court previously determined that cannabis prohibition was unconstitutional for youths, and this week South Africa’s top court heard arguments regarding the issue. Per IOL:

Pretoria – The Constitutional Court will hear arguments on Thursday, for the decriminalisation of the possession and use of cannabis by children.

In 2020, the Johannesburg High Court declared provisions of the Drugs and Drug Trafficking Act unconstitutional in so far as they criminalise the possession and use of cannabis by children.

The Centre for Child Law will today ask the Constitutional Court to confirm the high court order.

There is absolutely no reason for youth to ever be treated as criminals for acts that only involve cannabis. Cannabis prohibition is part of the school-to-prison pipeline that has ruined so many lives across the globe, and it’s a practice that needs to be ended immediately.

This is not to say that children should be allowed to smoke cannabis in the streets of South Africa unimpeded. Youth consumption is an issue that should always be taken seriously. However, public policy needs to be based on science, compassion, and logic.

The best approach for governments when it comes to youth and cannabis involves being honest and informative. Scare tactics do not work, and putting youth into the criminal justice system all but ensures that they will be in the system for years to come, possibly for the rest of the youth’s life. Hopefully South Africa’s top court does the right thing and renders a favorable decision.

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