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On the eve of the May 27 general elections, which saw the ruling African National Congress lose its majority for the first time in 30 years of South African democracy, a major change to the country’s drug laws slipped through, barely noticed by most.

Just one day before the historic ballot, President Cyril Ramaphosa signed the Cannabis for Private Purposes Act, making South Africa the first African nation to legalise the use of marijuana.

The bill removes cannabis from the country’s list of outlawed narcotics, meaning adults are now free to grow and consume the plant (except in the presence of children). The bill also stipulates that those who broke the law by committing such deeds should have their records automatically wiped clean. However, it is unclear how this will take place or when and if any of the 3,000 people in prison for cannabis-related offences as of 2022 will be released.

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