What to do if the cops catch you with cannabis
If you’re a weed lover, chances are you’ve had the hair-raising experience of hitting a roadblock with a bankie in your pocket or stompie on your dashboard.
As of September 2018, the Constitutional Court has made it clear that it is legal to grow and consume cannabis on private property for personal use – but here’s the catch: they haven’t specified how much cannabis passes as personal use, and how much means you could be arrested on suspicion of dealing.
Parliament has two years to lay down exact and specific laws that will govern how we can use cannabis, but until then, it’s a grey area. And that means it’s up to the police’s discretion whether to arrest you or not.
Andrew Lawrie from Schindlers Attorneys says the safest choice is to err on the side of caution.
“We’re really taking a conservative approach when we advise people how to handle this,” Lawrie told weed enthusiasts at the Cannabis Expo. “The Constitutional Court judgement does say that if police are unsure about what is and isn’t too much, they should rather not make the arrest – but how many police officers have read the judgement or taken the time to understand it?”
If the cops catch you with weed and decide to arrest you, here’s what you need to do, according to Fields of Green for All
1. Remember that if you’re using the weed for personal purposes, you are NOT a criminal.
2. Know your rights. This includes the right to film the police at all times, the right to remain silent, and the right to legal representation.
3. Do not fight the arrest. Make it clear to police that you are co-operating with them.
4. Keep the chitchat to a minimum. You are not obliged to explain yourself or make a statement at this stage. Stay calm and be polite nomatter how ridiculous you feel the arrest is. Do not try to lie your way out of it.
5. Now you will be taken to a nearby police station to be processed. If they take any of your belongings, make the police sign a detailed list of the items they have confiscated from you. Do not lie to the police, and do not accept any bribes or offers. This could jeopardise your case later on.
7. Your case will be assigned to an investigating officer, who will then interview you. You are not obliged to tell them anything other than your name and address. Anything you say is on the record and can be used in court. At this stage, you should ask to call your attorney. Have a name and a number with you at all times. You are entitled to legal representation, and the police will take you seriously if you have this locked down.
9. You will need to fill in some arrest paperwork. Part of the paperwork is an Admission of Guilt section, where you are given the option of paying a fine and walking free. DO NOT SIGN THIS OR PAY A FINE. If you do, you will have a criminal record.
10. As of the Constitutional Court judgement of 18 September 2018, the police may NOT lock you up in a cell until your first court appearance. They have to issue you with a summons to appear in court on a specific date, and then let you go.
Once you are out of there, you can head home to a safe space to take some deep breaths for the battle that lies ahead. Fields Of Green for All has a legal project called Join The Queue, which works together with Legal Aid lawyers to help you with your paperwork and guide you through the process. You’ll have to cover legal fees for court appearances though. If you’d like to Join The Queue, call them on 063 174 0938.
View a full guide to the legal process here
Save these numbers if you need to call for legal help:
Fields Of Green For All helpline: 063 174 0938
Schindlers Attorneys: 011 448 9600 or [email protected]
Zootly says: Bud isn’t the only part of the plant that could get you arrested. The entire cannabis plant is a Schedule 7 controlled substance, so that includes leaves, stems, seeds – the whole shebang. The only exception is CBD for therapeutic purposes, which is Schedule 4, so you’ll need a legit medical prescription for it to be legal.