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It is nearly four years since the Constitutional Court instructed our government to provide a legal framework for the use and beneficiation of Cannabis in South Africa.

The recent hearings into the so-called Cannabis for Private Purposes Bill held via Zoom on the 31st May 2022 were noteworthy for the lack of knowledge or wilful ignorance shown by the Department of Justice and their representative Advocate Robbertse when it comes to cannabis and its place in the modern world. Repeatedly citing our ‘obligations’ to the 1961 UN Convention on Drugs is disingenuous in the extreme as the main proponents of the Convention -the USA – have mostly disregarded it in their cannabis laws. Why we in Africa should continue to suffer at the hands of these racist laws which actively repress people of colour and their historic use and reverence for cannabis is anyone’s guess? Perhaps more frustrating are the many falsehoods and presumptions Robbertse and the State are basing their position upon, as if repeating a lie will make it true.

It is nearly four years since the Constitutional Court instructed our government to provide a legal framework for the use and beneficiation of Cannabis in South Africa. As we stand, aside from a very arcane definition of what constitutes private space and the right to grow cannabis therein for adult citizens, we are no closer to laws that will unleash the power of the green economy with cannabis as the primary driver. It is obvious that the State is trying to formulate our cannabis laws through the historically biased and racist framework of the ‘War on Drugs’ and the resultant laws that criminalised mankind’s most useful plant.

Our current ‘Franken-laws’ harm our poorest citizens the most – we continue to regulate different parts of the plant in different ways and impose arbitrary limits on how much we are allowed to grow, process and possess, with barbaric criminal sanctions at the heart of things. Eight years in jail for growing too many cannabis plants seems a little insane! There is no legitimate way for citizens to access cannabis in South Africa without falling foul of the proposed laws in some way. Instead of realising the enormous benefits that cannabis will bring to SA and her people, the State and its functionaries seem atavistically fixated on the supposed harms that cannabis will wreak on society. Dark murmurings of ‘Gateway drug’ and stoner zombies shadow every conversation, ignoring the fact that we are already the third largest consumer and producer of cannabis globally! We should be encouraging the production, trade and consumption of cannabis by adults and focusing on harm reduction, rather than criminal sanction.

Instead of the legal quagmire the state has led us into, perhaps we could look at cannabis from a current scientific and sociological viewpoint? Rather than framing the commercial aspect of cannabis in terms of ‘Dealing in Dagga’, can we have an adult conversation about empowering the million plus small-scale cannabis farmers in the country who are being prejudiced by our current legal impasse? All the biomass these farmers produce gets burned or discarded instead of being turned into hemp bricks, animal bedding or bio-concrete. Currently all cannabis these farmers grow is ‘illegal’ because it doesn’t qualify as medicine (as imposed on us by the West), whilst the government chooses to classify hemp as cannabis below a threshold of 0.2% THC – an arbitrarily low number which excludes literally all the cannabis grown in Africa. We don’t prescribe the growing of grapes or wheat for alcohol production with the same fanaticism, yet the societal harms caused by alcohol abuse are staggering. Tobacco is known to cause cancer, yet every street corner is awash with cheap, unregulated, murderous cigarettes.

Robbertse exposed his hand when he stated that Cannabis Social Clubs will result in the ‘illegal’ production and trade in cannabis which will place an unnecessary burden on law enforcement. Acknowledging that they considered a commercial framework for trading in cannabis in establishing our cannabis laws, he admitted that they would rather follow a prescriptive, narrow approach based on criminal sanction. The current laws criminalise the poor and marginalised who have no access to ‘private space’ as defined by the laws, and even those who can access such space are limited in the amount of medicine they can grow by a nanny state intent on moralising life choices on their behalf. Grow up man! We should be able to decide how to live our lives and how to regulate our consumption of cannabis like any other substance. No-one comes into our houses to count the whisky bottles, cigars or chocolate bars we choose to consume – how is cannabis any different? Come on Cyril – this is bullshit! Please put your best and brightest on this so we can all benefit from the cannabis economy.

Create a simple framework that will enable our poorest citizens to empower themselves through growing, beneficiating and treating themselves with life-giving cannabis. Cannabis will pull our people back into the rural areas where they can live lives of dignity and abundance. Forgotten towns and villages can set up agro-processing hubs where we can create the means to feed, clothe and build our country whilst improving the environment. Many pundits wiser than me have already consulted exhaustively with government, but their advice seems to fall on deaf ears. We need to bully our government into providing cannabis laws that make sense in the African context. Until then we are merely the victims of ongoing racist laws through which (ironically) a black government is repressing her mostly black citizenry – the Apartheid apparatchiks would be proud!

George Joubert 16 June 2022