Opinion Paper

Social and public health implications of the legalisation of recreational cannabis: A literature review

Kebogile Mokwena
African Journal of Primary Health Care & Family Medicine | Vol 11, No 1 | a2136 | DOI: https://doi.org/10.4102/phcfm.v11i1.2136 | © 2019 Kebogile Mokwena | This work is licensed under CC Attribution 4.0
Submitted: 09 May 2019 | Published: 19 November 2019

About the author(s)

Kebogile Mokwena, Department of Social and Behavioural Health Sciences, Sefako Makgatho Health Sciences University, Pretoria, South Africa


Background: After many years of legal struggles for the legalisation of recreational use of cannabis, the Constitutional Court of South Africa ruled in favour of the applicants in September 2018. Although the ruling issued caution regarding the social challenges accompanying this legalisation, it did not address how the country would deal with the societal consequences of this ruling.

Aim: The aim of this article was to discuss the social and public health implications of the legalisation of recreational cannabis on South Africa.

Methods: Literature review on the social, health and legal impacts of legalisation of cannabis, considering experiences of other countries that have legalised cannabis.

Results: The legalisation brings a range of significant negative consequences, which include an expected increase in the number of users and the subsequent undesirable effects on the physical, mental and social health of communities.

Conclusion: In terms of financial, infrastructural and human resources, South Africa cannot afford the consequences of the legalisation of recreational cannabis. Poor communities, children and the youth will carry the brunt of the scourge of cannabis use.


cannabis legislation; social outcomes; health outcomes; recreational use; legal system; injuries; Constitutional Court


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Crossref Citations

1. Status and Impacts of Recreational and Medicinal Cannabis Policies in Africa: A Systematic Review and Thematic Analysis of Published and “Gray” Literature
Chenai Kitchen, John Alimamy Kabba, Yu Fang
Cannabis and Cannabinoid Research  vol: 7  issue: 3  first page: 239  year: 2022  
doi: 10.1089/can.2021.0110