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A Thought Leadership piece by George Joubert

The SA Government seems to be moving in the right direction with the proposed Bill, but as with all matters government, they tie themselves in knots trying to define what is and isn’t cannabis/ hemp. Much of the limits and definitions will have to be challenged in our Courts, but some of the takeaways are as below;

1. For the purposes of a legal definition of Cannabis as an illegal substance the Seeds, Seedlings/ Cuttings, Stalks Branches without leaves and Roots are not defined as Cannabis. Only the leaves and flowering tops are included. Why the leaves are included – only Cyril knows!
2. The definition also includes any substance that contains more than 0.2% THC
3. Any Cannabis flowers etc containing less than 0.2%THC can be classed as hemp and is not subject to the Bill. It doesn’t specify how or by whom hemp will be regulated?
4. An immature plant or seedling is classed as any plant under 15cms tall or wide.
5. The National Cannabis Advisory Council (NCAC) will be established to help government and industry find each other through the new legislation etc – they will have their work cut out for them.
6. There is scope for the issuance of Cultivation and Trading permits to be issued for Cultural or Religious purposes
7. It seems the upper limit for possessing Cannabis in a public space has been adjusted to 200grams and provision is made for a household to store up to 1200grams for personal use -away from kids etc…
8. Criminal records for Cannabis convictions will be automatically expunged barring some exclusions.
In general, the law acknowledges the failure of the war on drugs, but still recommends criminal sanction for cannabis offences – effectively limiting the scope for ordinary people to benefit commercially from the plant except through the onerous process of applying for and adhering to costly commercial Licences.

The law also classes Cannabis in the same category as alcohol and tobacco in terms of potential for harm and intoxication – when a Retail model emerges from our legislative morass it can be assumed that Cannabis will be regulated in a similar fashion. The presumption that cannabis is an intoxicating substance similar to alcohol is a glaringly wrong assumption – the laws pertaining to driving on THC etc will be challenged, but for now be careful in this regard.

In summary, the whole question of what constitutes Recreational v Medicinal use has not been accurately addressed and many of the assumptions about Cannabis are erroneous, but at least the bill gives us a stake in the ground – now we need to shape the laws and regulations to reflect the reality of our extant cannabis industry and to rapidly find a way our marginalised communities to benefit. The route for this might be through applying for permits on religious and cultural grounds.

We need to keep agitating for government to shape a legal framework that suits our reality and population. This is a step in the right direction, though we desperately need a giant leap!

George Joubert 8th March 2022

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