‘420’: Is cannabis consumption legal in South Africa?

The 20th of April  – or 420 – is a significant date on the calendar. Although the number is a play on today’s date,  it actually marks “Weed Day,” or cannabis in popular culture. 

The phrase “420” is actually a nickname for the drug derived from the cannabis plant, which is classified as a hallucinogen. 

Apart from recreational use, the plant also has multiple medicinal and even spiritual properties.

The day is celebrated around the world.

420: WHAT’S IN A NUMBER?

Why is 420 linked to cannabis?

According to Steve Hager, a former editor of the marijuana-focused news outlet High Times, the phrase was coined by a group of high school students in the 1970s.

The students would smoke marijuana at 16:20 (4:20 pm) every day and eventually jokingly labelled their daily routine “420”.

For those unaware of the meaning of 420 pic.twitter.com/hNgjBiY9va

— 𝓜𝓲𝓬𝓱𝓮𝓵𝓮 (@Michele21672) April 20, 2024

According to Vox, the ritual spread, and soon 420 became code for smoking marijuana. Eventually, it was converted into 4/20 for calendar purposes, and the day of celebration was born.

Other 420 origin theories include the belief that the number is the California police or penal code for marijuana. However, there’s no evidence to support those claims.

Another is that there are reportedly 420 active chemicals in marijuana, which scientists claim is, in fact, much higher.

Lesser-known theories include:

Authors H.P. Lovecraft and Kenneth Sterling of the short story In the Walls of Eryx describe “curious mirage-plants” in which the narrator appeared to get the narrator high off. According to the time in the story, it’s around 4:20.

A Bob Dylan song called Rainy Day Women #12 & 35 (12x 35 = 420) in which he sings about getting “stoned”.

16:20 (or 4:20) is standard tea time in The Netherlands, of which the capital city is Amsterdam, the “Mecca” of cannabis use.

IS CANNABIS LEGAL IN SOUTH AFRICA?

In recent years, the South African judicial system has decriminalized the personal use of cannabis by adults -over the age of 18 years old –  in private residences.

This means that South Africans can grow and smoke cannabis or weed in the comfort of their homes.

In SA, the drug has several “street names,” including marijuana, weed, “dagga,” “ganja,” and “mbange.”

SOUTH Africa’s top court rules that private, personal cannabis use is legal; Parliament to draft new laws in 24 months. pic.twitter.com/TVJfKOpcg1

— CapitalFM Breaking News (@BreakingNewsKE) September 18, 2018

According to My Cannabis, in 2018, the Constitutional Court legalised medicinal cannabis. It also decriminalized the personal use and cultivation of cannabis for private consumption by adults. 

Although categorised as a landmark ruling, the “Cannabis for Private Purposes Bill” strictly prohibits the commercial sale and distribution of the drug, except in the case of medical use. 

Cannabis has multiple healing and therapeuthic properties. Image via Pixabay

THC VS CBD – WHAT’S THE DIFFERENCE?

Over the years, cannabis-infused products have saturated the market. 

Products like edibles, health and beauty items, food, and beverages can contain natural compounds like cannabidiol or “CBD” and tetrahydrocannabinol or “THC.”

According to Healthline, CBD is derived from hemp or cannabis and does not produce the “high” sensation associated with cannabis.

THC contains a psychoactive compound that does