When it comes to cannabis legalizations, different factors can be at work in different locations. In some places, sick kids pushed through medical legalizations, in other places, recreational legalizations were voted in by the population. In a few cases it was something else though, it came through the courts. In these cases, legal marijuana came as a result of personal sovereignty clauses in national constitutions.
It would be great if we were all afforded the right to legal marijuana due to personal sovereignty rights in our specific countries, but unfortunately, this only works in some places. Luckily, the general expansion of the industry has made it so getting many products is much easier, with much more available. Take delta-8 THC, for example. No one knew what the stuff was five years ago. And now? This alternate, less intense, form of THC, flies right off the shelves. This goes for other cannabis compounds as well. Lucky for you, we’ve got them all, so take a look at our deals on delta-8 THC, delta-9 THC, THCV, THCP, delta 10, HHC, THC-O and a broad range of other cannabis related products.
What does personal sovereignty mean?
Personal sovereignty can be summed up like this: “To be sovereign over one’s self is to be free of the control or coercion of others – to truly direct one’s own life.” In other words, personal sovereignty is self-ownership, and comes with the idea that each person is their own piece of property belonging to themselves. This includes legal and/or natural rights for bodily integrity, and to be the sole controller of one’s life.
As far as what it means to have legal or natural rights, these are the two types of rights afforded to individuals. Natural rights are inalienable rights, or what some would refer to as ‘god-given rights’. These are not supposed to be specific to a particular government or set of laws, but are instead considered fundamental laws, or human rights. As inalienable rights, they cannot be taken away by a government’s laws, unless the individual is causing harm to someone else. In the US constitution, inalienable rights include “life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.”
Conversely, legal rights are those afforded by a specific government. They are governed by human laws, and are able to be changed or repealed if the government feels the need. These laws encompass everything not related to personal freedoms, like traffic laws, gun laws, trade laws, criminal laws, and so on.
Personal sovereignty is a principal of different philosophies in politics, namely anarchism, liberalism, and libertarianism. Clauses show up in many constitutions, specifying what the government sees as inalienable rights. Now, this concept is interesting. If the idea of ‘inalienable rights’ actually existed as I just said, they would have to be consistent everywhere. After all, if they’re not related to local laws, then they should be the same throughout the world. But this isn’t the case. And, in fact, the particular inalienable rights afforded to populations, are decided within a constitution, meaning they are specific to a given government.
Even so, they are thought of as separate from legal rights. Though this detracts from them a bit, they still hold true where they’re available. While the US doesn’t have strong principals for this in its constitution, other countries do. And three times now, at least, these principals have been used to either legalize recreational cannabis, or reduce penalties to the point of practically being legal.
How Mexico gained legal marijuana using personal sovereignty
The mess of Mexico and cannabis legalization has been going on for a few years now. At the end of 2018, the Mexican Supreme Court ruled in favor of defendants in two cases involving the right to use cannabis recreationally. These two cases were really the last of five consecutive cases, starting in 2015, all if which had to do with the right of an individual to consume cannabis in their own private life.
In Mexico, five consecutive Supreme Court rulings on the same topic, ruled on in the same way, become legally binding for all lower courts, and override legislative laws. This is called jurisprudencia. As such, in these situations, the government is then tasked with coming up with new legislation to be in line with the court rulings.
So, what was the basis for these court rulings? In the Mexican constitution, personal development is a given, or inalienable right. It reflects a specific aspect of personal sovereignty afforded by the Mexican government to its people. People must, by the constitution, be able to choose their own recreational activities in life, and they must be able to do this without government intervention. In its ruling, the Supreme Court specified that the psychoactive effects of cannabis are not enough to provide justification for prohibition. The final ruling officially made the prohibition of personal recreational cannabis use, unconstitutional.
For anyone paying attention, this didn’t come and go quietly. The government has repeatedly nixed its responsibility in coming up with written legislation, first asking for extensions for 2.5 years, and then missing a deadline without even requesting an extension this past April. This move effectively gave the Supreme Court the ability to simply drop the prohibition law, which it did. Since the Supreme Court doesn’t write legislation, this was done in a small way, legalizing the personal cultivation, possession, and use of cannabis, but leaving everything else as illegal, until the government sees fit to do its job.
How Georgia gained legal marijuana using personal sovereignty
The first thing that makes the title to this section interesting, is simply the idea that a former Eastern Bloc country, is actually weed-legal. No other truly legalized location exists on either the continents of Europe or Asia, yet somehow, a recreational legalization snuck in, in a place completely unexpected, and not in concert with the area around. But that’s what happened, when Georgia became the 3rd legalized recreational country. Here’s the story.
Up until 2018, Georgia had some of the stricter laws concerning cannabis. Users could incur up to 14 years in prison for simple possession and use, with forced drug tests being given on 100+ people a day. Georgia had a zero-tolerance policy when it came to marijuana, and the country was making a lot of money from fines, collecting a massive $11.3 million in one year alone. Cannabis activists in the country were fighting these forced tests, as well as pushing for decriminalization measures, and to have dosage calculations made by law. It was even being spoken about politically when elections came around in 2018, with a law being drafted to allow cannabis exports.
All of what was going on was blown out of the water by the Constitutional Court in 2018. That year, amid all the other cannabis talk, the Court made a ruling in a case that its unconstitutional to punish a person for using cannabis, since it doesn’t hurt anyone else. The ruling stated that a punishment for using cannabis is restrictive of personal freedoms. Once again, personal sovereignty pushed through a legalization measure. The Court went on to state in its ruling, that unless a 3rd party is being affected, or use laws are broken, no penalties will be given out for using cannabis at all.
It says something for the stance of the Constitutional Court, that a year prior to this legalization, it was already calling to decriminalize cannabis. This shows that even in its stricter days, there was already a break towards liberalism. However, a major detraction of this legalization, is that it only applies to possession and use.
Cultivation and supply crimes were not affected by the ruling, meaning Georgia has some terribly inconsistent cannabis laws, allowing for its legal possession and use, but without the ability to buy, sell, or grow it. There is also no official regulated market in place. Chances are that written legislation will update soon enough to make this a more tenable system. For now, Georgia has the designation of becoming the 3rd legalized country, the first in Europe or Asia to do so, and the first of the former Eastern Bloc countries to adopt a pro-cannabis policy.
How South Africa gained nearly legal marijuana using personal sovereignty
South Africa is a little different because the country didn’t technically legalize anything. However, due to Supreme Court rulings, the country has some of the most relaxed cannabis laws, that in many ways do resemble a regular legalization. Much like with the two countries previously mentioned, since it came through the court system, and this requires legislation to be written, the exact specifications of this new law are still unknown. Anyway, here’s the story of South Africa and cannabis decriminalization.
Funny enough, all three of the countries mentioned, officially changed policies due to Constitutional Court decisions made in 2018. South Africa’s came in September of 2018. The court ruling in question was originally made on March 31st, 2017, but not by a constitutional court. In this case, the judge of the local court ruled that it was unconstitutional to prevent private cultivation and use of cannabis. The reason being, that such a criminalization was an infringement to inalienable rights of personal privacy, and therefore, not justifiable.
The right to privacy was the central issue in the 2017 ruling. The right to privacy is an inalienable right of personal sovereignty afforded to South Africans through section 14 of their Bill of Rights. The clause states that every individual has the right to lead their own private life, without interference by the government or other private institutions. This is what the court stated to back up its point:
“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… This inviolable core is left behind once an individual enters into relationships with persons outside this closest intimate sphere; the individual’s activities then acquire a social dimension and the right of privacy in this context becomes subject to limitation.”
Of course, this was just a regular court. Appeals rolled in after the decision, leading the judgement to be heard by the Constitutional Court in 2018. When the Constitutional Court upheld the lower court’s decision, the new ruling became law, and the private cultivation and recreational use of cannabis was heavily decriminalized. It is said that police can still arrest a person for private cannabis crimes, but that the person can use this ruling as a defense in court. The new bill will hopefully shed more light on this aspect. This is different from Mexico or Georgia, where the lower courts can no longer entertain such cases. An official bill is still being worked out which will specify the particulars of the new law. Technically, South Africa had 24 months to write a bill before the court ruling automatically took over. It is now 3.5 years later, and there is no bill yet, but this is likely due to corona.
This idea that legal marijuana use can come through court rulings on personal sovereignty, is kind of cool. Take Chile, and its endeavor to create a new constitution. Should the new constitution have a personal sovereignty clause, it would open the door for cannabis legalization.
If your next question is whether the US has such a provision, the sad answer is no. The farthest we get in the US is the guarantee for the ‘pursuit of happiness’. Now, I know cannabis sure makes me happy. And it could certainly be argued in court that not allowing legal marijuana is a detraction of personal sovereignty related to the pursuit of happiness…but as of yet, it has not been done.
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Disclaimer: Hi, I’m a researcher and writer. I’m not a doctor, lawyer, or businessperson. All information in my articles is sourced and referenced, and all opinions stated are mine. I am not giving anyone advise, and though I am more than happy to discuss topics, should someone have a further question or concern, they should seek guidance from a relevant professional.