The Johannesburg High Court will decide if children who used cannabis are jailed
Children jailed. The Johannesburg High Court will study on Thursday different arguments about whether children who are in possession of cannabis or used it, a criminal offense against the Drug Trafficking Act, must be prosecuted, which could mean imprisonment in a juvenile detention center; something that already happened in November 2018, when 4 children studying in Krugersdorp were imprisoned in a BOSASA juvenile detention center for 77 days for having tested positive for cannabis in a drug test while they were in school.
The Center for Child Law will advise the court
The position of the Center is that children who are detained for possession or consumption of cannabis should not be jailed in juvenile detention centers, but rather sent to rehabilitation programs.
Lithalethemba Stwayi, the lawyer for the Center for Child Law, said the center had been invited by the court to present its views on the treatment for children who smoke cannabis should follow.
Each of the 4 children was forced to undergo rehabilitation programs, but the authorities did not comply with the order and the children were imprisoned in a juvenile care jail operated by African Global Operations, which is a private jail system that provides services to the government. The children were jailed for 77 days for having used cannabis.
The Center for Child Law believes that it is more appropriate to treat children under the Children’s Law or the Substance Abuse Prevention and Treatment Act. Stwayi says that children should be treated for drug dependence. But what cannot be done is to jail and punish them, especially when adults in the same position are treated differently.
Ronald Lamola, Minister of Justice of South Africa, has expressed his point of view before the Johannesburg High Court that will decide the fate of children who are arrested for cannabis use.
According to the minister, there is irrefutable evidence that arresting and jailing children for cannabis use have a negative effect on them. The minister believes that it is better for children to follow educational and drug awareness programs, drug prevention programs, treatment and rehabilitation to learn to fight drug abuse, but that children should not be imprisoned for smoking marijuana.
Stwayi says the Children’s Rights Center is satisfied with the position taken by the minister as it aims to help children instead of punishing them and putting them in jail. She says the center is not supporting cannabis use by children, but is trying to find a way to deal with their problems instead of jailing the children.
The Center for Child Law believes that children should not be treated harder than adults when they are caught using cannabis. The organization is asking the High Court to reconsider the imprisonment of children who are arrested smoking cannabis. The Constitutional Court legalized that adults cultivate and consume marijuana in the privacy of their homes. Stwayi says that we must decriminalize cannabis use by minors and change jail sentences for cannabis use for rehabilitation programs. Criminal proceedings against children in the Children’s Court of Justice must be reviewed.
The Center for Child Law believes that children should not be treated harder than adults when they are caught using cannabis. The organization is asking the High Court to reconsider the prosecution of children who are arrested for smoking cannabis. The Constitutional Court legalized that adults cultivate and consume marijuana in the privacy of their own homes. Stwayi says that we must decriminalize cannabis use by minors and change prison sentences for cannabis use for rehabilitation programs. We need to review the criminal proceedings against children in the Children’s Court of Justice.
According to Stwayi, the idea is to prevent children from suffering the brutal effect of South African prisons that do not have the necessary mechanisms to properly deal with cannabis abuse. It is a history of human rights abuse and the worst part is that the abuse has been committed, not only by other inmates at the detention center, but by the police and the courts, which are institutions whose mission is to protect the children.
There are many people who speak against the decriminalization of cannabis for children. So, is it for the sake of children to be jailed for cannabis use? There is a great lack of understanding of the problem. Cannabis should not be available for sale to persons under 18 years of age, unless that child needs the plant for medical reasons, and severe regulation is necessary to prevent the sale of cannabis to minors. But, of course, putting children in jail for cannabis use is a legal aberration.