Tag Archive: south africa

Dagga – It’s now legal – The Con Court ruling explained

Dagga legalisation in South Africa

Dagga legalisation has been big news in the past week. But what exactly does it mean in practice?

Since last week’s Constitutional Court ruling on the possession of dagga for private use, SD Law has been inundated with queries about the practical implications of this decision. How does it differ from last year’s Western Cape High Court ruling? Is possession of dagga now legal? We attempt to answer your questions.

 

The High Court ruling

If you’ve been following our blog you’ll remember that we wrote recently about the difference between possession of marijuana – dagga or cannabis – and intent to deal (read more). We also covered the 2017 Western Cape High Court ruling that allowed the use of dagga by adults at home (read more).

Last year’s ruling cited the right to privacy guaranteed by our Constitution, and allowed for this right to be used as a defence if charged with possession in your own home. As we’ve pointed out previously, that decision did not legalise marijuana use, but it did pave the way for Parliament to enact a change in legislation.

 

What the Constitutional Court ruling means

The Constitutional Court decision of 18 September 2018 went further than the 2017 High Court ruling in that it effectively decriminalised the possession and cultivation of cannabis in private by adults for personal consumption. It’s important to note that the Con Court does not make the laws; it can only rule on the constitutionality or otherwise of existing laws. However, if a law is found to be unconstitutional, the onus is then on Parliament to remedy the fault in the law. So, the law criminalising possession of marijuana is still on the statute books, but the order has been suspended. The Court has provided interim relief that renders it unlawful for the police to arrest adults for private cultivation, possession and use of small amounts of cannabis. Parliament should enact a change in legislation within the next two years.

 

How much is a small amount?

As we explained in our blog post on possession last month, the historical threshold of 115g has been relaxed, in favour of a more pragmatic approach to determining intent. The burden of proof is now on the State to show that the accused intended to supply the dagga in his or her possession to someone else for profit. This might hold true for an amount less than 115g, or a quantity in excess of 115g could still be purely for personal use.

Last week’s ruling did not contain any indication of the quantities that would be considered ‘for private consumption’. It acknowledged that the greater the amount held, the greater the likelihood that dealing would take place. However, it reinforced the onus on the State to prove intent and ensured that police officers would give a potential accused the benefit of the doubt. According to Deputy Chief Justice Raymond Zondo, “…there will be cases where it will be difficult to tell whether the possession is for personal consumption or not. In the latter scenario a police officer should not arrest the person because in such a case it would be difficult to show beyond reasonable doubt later in court that that person’s possession of cannabis was not for personal consumption.”

 

The definition of ‘private’

Another point of difference between the Con Court and the High Court rulings is the definition of privacy. Whereas the High Court was quite specific about the right to privacy providing a defence if found in possession in one’s own home, the Con Court did not specify in the judgement what constitutes a private place. Rather, the Court modified last year’s Order to reflect that a ‘private place’ can extend to more than just one’s literal home. It is probably safe to assume that a home, office, pocket, storage facility or car would amount to a private place.

 

Cultivation

The Con Court ruling also specifically allowed for cultivation of cannabis for private use, and went on to define privacy in the context of cultivation: “An example of cultivation of cannabis in a private place is the garden of one’s residence. It may or may not be that it can also be grown inside an enclosure or a room under certain circumstances. It may also be that one may cultivate it in a place other than in one’s garden if that place can be said to be a private place.”

 

What is the right to privacy?

The right to privacy simply means the right to live your life without interference from the State or from other individuals or entities. The right to privacy is enshrined in the United Nations Universal Declaration of Human Rights: “The Right to Privacy. Nobody should try to harm our good name. Nobody has the right to come into our home, open our letters, or bother us or our family without a good reason.”

Given the iniquitous abuse of this right in the apartheid era, it is unsurprising that our Constitution upholds the right to privacy as a pillar of a fair and just society. The Court stated, “A very high level of protection is given to the individual’s intimate personal sphere of life and the maintenance of its basic preconditions and there is a final untouchable sphere of human freedom that is beyond interference from any public authority. So much so that, in regard to this most intimate core of privacy, no justifiable limitation thereof can take place…”

 

A global trend

South Africa joins 33 jurisdictions around the world where the use of cannabis has been decriminalised or legalised. Canada is the most recent to liberalise its laws on possession and cultivation, with some variance from province to province on the details (e.g. number of plants allowed to be grown and where) but an overall national legalisation framework. The US also has state-by-state legislation, with some states fully decriminalised, some allowing medical use only and some still criminalising all use; but a growing number of states allow recreational use and cultivation, with a varying number of plants permitted to be grown depending on the state.

 

No deal

Remember it is still illegal to deal in dagga! If you grow or carry cannabis for sale or supply to others, you are breaking the law. The relaxation in approach does not extend to dealing in the substance. The right to privacy will not protect you if you sell marijuana, or if you consume it in a public place. Enjoy the new freedom, but don’t abuse it. Consume cannabis responsibly or you could still fall foul of the law.

 

If you have been charged with possession…

Ordinarily, under the doctrine of objective Constitutional validity, the moment a law is declared unconstitutional, the legal position is that the law has always been so. The implications for criminal law are that any prior convictions are invalid, and will be set aside. To prevent disorder, Courts may postpone or suspend the operation of invalidity. In this case, the Court rejected retrospective operation. This means that previous convictions stand. If you would like more information, feel free to contact us – we’re here to help.

 

Contact us

If you need advice regarding a charge of possession or dealing, call Simon immediately on 087 550 2740 or contact us. It is important to know your rights and have legal representation to ensure you are treated fairly and within the law, especially if the police have acted without full knowledge of the recent changes.

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Cohabitation – What is it?

Cohabitation

Cohabitation vs. marriage – the legal differences

For various reasons, marriage is not for everyone. Some prefer not to marry as a matter of principle; some can’t marry (for example if one party is waiting for a divorce to come through). Others want to live together prior to marriage, to road-test their compatibility. Whatever the motive, the status of cohabitation is generally socially acceptable in South Africa and we often hear the term ‘life partners’ used for committed, cohabitative relationships where there is no marriage.

However, in South Africa there is no ‘law of cohabitation’ and cohabitation is not a recognised legal relationship. Notwithstanding, there are legal consequences of cohabitation and some legislation defines ‘spouse’ in such a way that includes a partner in a cohabitative relationship.

 

What is cohabitation?

Cohabitation refers to a stable, monogamous relationship in which the couple, either male-female or same-sex, chooses not to marry but to live together as spouses. Familiar terms for cohabitation include living together, shacking up, de facto marriage, quasi-marriage, common-law marriage, domestic partnership or private marriage. A cohabitative relationship looks to the observer exactly like a marriage. The only distinguishing feature is the lack of legal sanction.

Cohabitation is defined differently in different legal systems, but there are three universal components: a sexual relationship between the couple, a factual cohabitative relationship (i.e. they live in the same home), and stability of the relationship. There may also be a requirement for a sense of responsibility for each other.

 

Common-law marriage – quashing the myth

Many people believe that if a couple cohabitates for a long period of time, the same marital rights apply that spouses in a marriage enjoy…that a ‘common-law’ marriage exists. This misconception exists in many jurisdictions but it is just that – a misconception. There is no such thing as common-law marriage.

 

Universal partnership

Despite the lack of legal status, the South African courts have ruled that there may be an express or implied universal partnership proper (societas universorum bonorum) in existence between a cohabiting couple. In a universal partnership both parties agree to put their current and future property in common, which would resemble a marriage in community of property.

 

Universal partnerships must satisfy four legal requirements:

  1. The aim of the partnership must be to make a profit
  2. Both parties must contribute to the enterprise
  3. The partnership must operate for the benefit of both parties
  4. The contract between the parties must be legitimate

 

The universal partnership argument can be used to give both parties a share in all property acquired during (and before) the commencement of the relationship. However, if a universal partnership cannot be proven, the private property owned by the cohabitees prior to cohabitation belongs to the partners separately and there is no community of property. Property acquired before the relationship is also exempt from any consequences of the Insolvency Act.

 

Cohabitation agreement

Proving the existence of a universal partnership on separation can add to the stress that already accompanies the end of a relationship. It is much more sensible for a cohabiting couple to draw up a cohabitation agreement at the outset of the living arrangement. A cohabitation agreement is a relatively simple contract that includes details of a couple’s assets, property and the financial contributions each partner makes to the joint home. It is valid when ratified by an appointed lawyer.

 

And that’s not all

There are many other issues cohabitative couples must contend with, should they decide to call it a day. There will be a home and associated mortgage or tenancy and decisions to be made about what happens to it, with the accompanying financial consequences. There may be children of the union. There could be shared debts. There may be insurance policies with both partner as beneficiaries, or a shared vehicle. A cohabitation agreement can help to mitigate conflict when it comes to deciding how these matters will be resolved.

 

If the worst happens

A will is often the last thing on the mind when a couple is caught up in the excitement of moving in together. But it’s an important consideration, particularly a few years down the line when there are children and/or shared property involved. Cohabiting partners have no automatic legal right to inherit from the other, as per the Intestate Succession Act, and no right to spousal maintenance on death, as provided for by the Maintenance of Surviving Spouses Act. If you want to be sure of looking after each other in the event of one or other’s death, it is important to make a will.

 

Free Cohabitation Agreement

Download our free Cohabitation Agreement

 

Contact us for more information

If you are about to move in with your partner and would like to draw up a cohabitation agreement and/or a will, or if you need help with the dissolution of a cohabitative relationship, call Simon today. Simon Dippenaar and Associates are experts in family law, including cohabitation. We’ll explain your rights and responsibilities and make sure your interests are protected. Contact Simon on 087 550 2740 or email contact us.

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Served with a protection order? What you need to know

Protection order South Africa

Protection order is an order used by a court to protect a person or business. If you are a landlord and have been served with a protection order by your tenant, what does this mean and what should you do about it?

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Medical marijuana South Africa – a licensed affair

Medical marijuana South Africa

Medical Marijuana

As we covered previously, on 31 March the Western Cape High Court ruled that marijuana (cannabis or dagga) can be used by adults in the privacy of their own homes, and may be cultivated for private use. Even before that groundbreaking verdict, South Africans were using marijuana privately for medicinal use, and were doing so legally. So has anything changed as a result of the High Court decision?

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Behave Yourself! Sectional Title Law Areas of Conduct

Conduct Sectional Title Law

Sectional title law no 5 – Conduct prescribed or proscribed by law

In our articles on sectional title law, we have looked at the role of the trustees in a complex, the rules for general meetings of owners and the role of the Chair, financial management and record-keeping, and the role and duties of managing agents. In the last in this series we cover the types of conduct within a sectional title scheme that the law sees fit to specifically mandate.

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