Police commissioner tells cops to let the stoners blaze

Following a groundbreaking court judgment last week, national police commissioner  Lieutenant General Khehla Sitole has instructed the Hawks, all police section heads and commanders of the police training academy not to arrest anyone for the private use, cultivation or possession of cannabis.

The Constitutional Court last week declared invalid provisions of the Drugs and Drug Trafficking Act which prohibited the private possession use and cultivation of cannabis.

In a directive — which the Mail & Guardian has seen and has been sent to all police commanders and division heads at the Hawks — the police are advised to immediately cease the arrest of people found in possession of cannabis while parliament decides on the amount an individual may carry.

However, Sitole reminded police that the use of cannabis in a public place is still illegal.

In last week’s judgment, Deputy Chief Justice Raymond Zondo ordered that if an officer is unsure whether the cannabis found on a person is for private or commercial use, the officer should rather not carry out an arrest.

The directive further instructed police to adhere to Zondo’s order.

Officers are advised to “take into account all the relevant circumstances of a particular situation” before deciding whether or not to arrest.

“If it can be said that there is reasonable suspicion that a person has committed an offense in terms of the relevant legislation, or poses a flight risk [the police should arrest them],” Sitole wrote.

“[Police] should rather register a criminal case docket and ensure that the suspect is brought to court by means of a summons or written notice,” Sitole stated.

Sitole further warned police officers not to implement any other directives after the apparent leaking of a document from the Limpopo Hawks. The document set the limit of how much cannabis can be cultivated or possessed privately at three kilograms.

Govan Whittles

Govan Whittles is a general news and political multimedia journalist at the Mail & Guardian. Born in King William's Town in the Eastern Cape, he cut his teeth as a radio journalist at Primedia Broadcasting. He produced two documentaries and one short film for the Walter Sisulu University, and enjoys writing about grassroots issues, national politics, identity, heritage and hip-hop culture.

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