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Mozambicans react: decriminalisation of marijuana in South Africa

March for the legalisation of marijuana in Cape Town | (South Africa, 2017) | Wikimedia Commons CC

On September 18, South Africa's highest court ruled that consumption of marijuana in private spaces, as well as its cultivation for personal use, aren't criminal offences.

The case was brought by several parties who had faced arrest for marijuana consumption. The court ruled that their criminal prosecution interfered with section 14 of the South African Constitution, which enshrines citizens’ right to privacy.

“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,” Deputy Chief Justice Raymond Zondo said.

The government now has 24 months to officially write the verdict into law. When delivering the decision, Zondo stated that it'll be left to the ANC-ruled Parliament to specify the quantity of cannabis a person can grow or possess for personal use, adding that the police officer should “consider all circumstances” when determining whether there is an intention to deal.

Such ambiguity mirrors the language of Brazil's 2006 Drug Law, which decriminalizes use without offering clear definitions of what differentiates it from “trafficking”. Many Brazilian experts argue the law ends up reinforcing authorities’ biases against race, gender, and social class, and that the framework has dramatically contributed to the increase of Brazil's incarceration rate in the past decade.

South Africa's landmark verdict was received with mixed reactions at home and its neighbors, including Mozambique. South Africa is a major destination for young Mozambicans for jobs and studies, and many were left wondering how the ruling will affect them.

Maússe, a Mozambican law student, says legalizing marijuana in South Africa could incur Mozambique in greater costs in border patrol.

Ademais, com esta legalização a possibilidade de se estabelecer um mercado de venda de cannabis sativa junto da fronteiras acima referidas por cidadãos sul-africanos, moçambicanos e doutras nacionalidades é maior, pelo que o trabalho de inspecção, revista ou fiscalização de viaturas, sacolas ou pastas de pessoas, e elas mesmas, em trânsito no sentido RSA – Moçambique, deverá “quadruplicar” por parte das autoridades moçambicanas.

Assim, não há dúvidas que esta legalização na RSA poderá acarretar custos elevados para Moçambique e outros países da região com muitos cidadãos naquele país. Aliás, muitos estudantes nacionais a estudarem naquele país e trabalhadores ainda não consumidores da cannabis, com a liberalização de seu consumo em espaços privados que não obsta que poderá ser também em locais públicos, correm o risco de, por influência directa ou indirecta, também entrar no mundo de seu consumo.

In addition, with this legalisation, the possibility of a market for cannabis sativa to establish itself near the South Africa border, run by South Africans, Mozambicans and citizens of other countries, is greater. It'll inccur in “quadruple” costs for Mozambique in regards to inspection, search and oversight of cars, bags, files and people who are in trasit between the two countries.

Thus, there is no doubt that this legalisation in RSA can turn out to be expensive for Mozambique and the other nations in the region that have a significant number of citizens living there. Moreover, many Mozambican students and workers in RSA who are not yet marijuana users, with the liberalization of the consumption in private areas, might also be influenced, directly or indirectly, to use marijuana.

The same publication had many comments, especially Maria Manjate, who was worried about the decision:

Estou muito triste. Na minha familia, existem jovens dependentes dessa erva. Estao totalmente destruídos, desnorteados, sem presente e muito menos futuro. Julgo k com a legalizaçao de soruma na vizinha SA, as coisas vao piorar.

I am very sad. In my family, there are young people dependent on this herb. They are utterly destroyed, confused, without a present, let alone a future. I think that, with the legalisation of marijuana in the SA, things will get worse.

However, Cal Barroso, another young internet user, argues that the idea of legalizing cannabis in South Africa is not at all bad:

É preciso antes de tudo perceber porquê da ERVA ser proibida em muitos países do mundo. Vivemos no mundo onde as mentes deixaram de funcionar. Deixamos de pensar. Algumas leituras cuidadas podem nos libertar de muitos “tabus” que temos sobre muitas coisas incluindo do tabu sobre a “cannabis”.

A cannabis faz mal? Sim, mas o álcool faz pior. O cigarro idem, mas posso comprar na esquina mais próxima. Quando forem a ler perceberão que não há razões palpáveis para a proibição da consumo da cannabis, tanto é que muitos países que tem gente que “pensa” estão a rever suas leis.

It is necessary first of all to understand why marijuana is banned in many countries. We live in the world where minds have stopped working. We have stopped thinking. Some careful readings can help us free ourselves from many taboos, including the taboo around cannabis.

Does cannabis cause harm? Yes, but alcohol does too. Cigarettes do too, but I can still buy them at the nearest corner. When you read about it, you will realize that there are no tangible reasons to the use of cannabis, and that's why many countries that have people who “think” are reviewing their laws.

Juma Aiuba, journalist and activist, used the moment to mock a group of local academic commentators who, since 2013, frequently participate in radio and television shows to discuss political issues, but always in defense of the ruling party Frelimo:

No que diz respeito à legalização do consumo da maconha, há que reconhecer que nós estamos muito mais adiantados do que os nossos vizinhos e arquicunhados sul-africanos. Nós legalizamos o consumo da cannabis nos idos anos 2012-2014, quando decidimos criar e instituir o famigerado Gê-40. Graças à essa erva que os nossos académicos sabiamente fumam ou fazem chá (legalmente), de lá à esta parte, temos dado passos gigantescos rumo à putrefação do conhecimento científico.

Sem dúvida, o gê-quarentismo tem sido o maior e o mais bem sucedido festival de maconheiros de fato e gravata exibido legalmente em rede nacional. Um autêntico desfile de lunáticos. Uma verdadeira sinfonia de paulados.

Há programas de televisão que você se apercebe (sem esforço algum) que os painelistas tiveram uma paragem ali na Colômbia da capital. Parece que esse grupo de sábios tem autorização para bater um baseado antes de entrar num estúdio de televisão/rádio ou antes de entrar numa redação de jornal ou mesmo antes de teclar no Facebook.

When it comes to legalisation of marijuana, we must recognize that we are much more advanced than our neighbors and distant relatives, the South Africans. We legalized cannabis around 2012/2014, when we decided to create the notorious “Gê-40″. Thanks to this herb, with which our academics (legally) smoke or make tea, we have made giant steps towards the putrefaction of scientific knowledge.

Undoubtedly, ge-quarentism has been the largest and most successful festival of suit-and-tie stoners that is legally broadcasted in national television. An authentic parade of lunatics. A true symphony of puls.

There are television programs in which you realize (without any effort) that the panelists had a stop there in our capital's Colombia. It seems that this group of sages has authorization to smoke a spliff before entering a television/radio studio, or before even before typing on Facebook.

Cannabis around the world

In recent years, several countries have decriminalized the use or possession of marijuana or abolished prison sentences for that offence.

Uruguay was the first country in the world to legalize the production, distribution, and use of marijuana (in 2014). In Canada, as well as in eight states in the United States, sale for recreational use is also now legal.

In Europe, the Netherlands allows the sale of marijuana in coffee shops since 1976. A 2012 law restricting sale to residents only was recently repealed.

In Spain, the law allows private use and cultivation of the plant, while in the Czech Republic it is not a crime to carry up to 15 grams of marijuana or to grow up to five plants at home.

Fines are been gradually abolished across Europe. Countries such as Germany, Austria, Great Britain, Finland, Italy, Greece, Romania, Slovenia, Croatia, Portugal, Poland, and Macedonia have legalized the herb's production and sale for therapeutic use.

In France, a committee was set up to “assess the relevance of the development” of the therapeutic use of cannabis — currently, two cannabis-based herbal medicines are legally sold in the country.

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