Government speaks on legalizing weed in South Africa – Here is what you need to know



– Allowed to possess, grow cannabis but if bought, a crime has been committed.

The possession of nine cannabis plants could earn you a spot in jail next to a murderer should the first draft Bill to legalise cannabis be passed by parliament.

The University of Pretoria’s department of anthropology and archaeology and the Centre for the Study of Governance Innovation recently hosted a webinar about legalising cannabis in South Africa.

During the webinar, Dr Tracy Muwanga, a transdisciplinary postdoctoral fellow for the faculties of law and nature and agriculture sciences at the University of Pretoria, said the proposed Bill did not make provision for scientific or medical research.

She added that it was better to regulate the cannabis industry than to neglect potential economic opportunities. “The Bill doesn’t cater for commercial use. You may possess, use and grow cannabis but if you purchase it you are committing a crime,” she added,

“If a person is caught with six plants it is considered a trafficable offence and could result in a six-year imprisonment. When you are caught with nine plants, it is considered as a commercial offence and could result in a 15year imprisonment.”

She said the proposed prison terms for the two offences were disproportionate. “Fifteen years on its own is also quite harsh,” she said – comparing the sentence to that handed down for murder.

Muwanga said people in rural areas would suffer the most at the hands of a proposed clause to limit the amount of plants allowed in a household, in line with the number of adults living there. “What about the larger families in the rural areas?” she asked.

Suresh Patel, stakeholder manager at Fields of Green for All NPO, described the penalties in the proposed Bill as “overly harsh”.

“Where is the evidence of what amount of cannabis consumed is harmful?” she asked, “The penalties for smoking cannabis in public should be the same as consuming alcohol in public or smoking of tobacco in public.”

Paul Michael, a partner at Schindlers Attorneys, said the proposed Bill was a “bad piece of legislation”.

“How can we say we are free if we are not free to grow, possess, and consume cannabis in the privacy of our own homes?” he asked.

Michael assisted the “Dagga Couple” during their Pretoria trial and their constitutional case.

Secretary for the Marijuana Board of South Africa GP and Rastafarian Steven Thapelo Khunou said cannabis was not a scheduled drug. “Scheduling the plant is corruption,” he said, “Our people were killed for ganja when pharmaceuticals called it a drug, now the pharmaceuticals say it is not as bad. For years the traditional healers, traditional leaders and Rastafarians have been sidelined… Have you ever seen the Hawks raid a Clicks or DisChem? They go after the small fishes and make an example out of them.”

Khunou has welcomed a recent ruling from Commission for Conciliation, Mediation and Arbitration (CCMA) commissioner Nomsa Mbileni, which ordered the reinstatement of a factory worker who had been fired for reporting for duty under the influence of dagga.

The draft Bill is open for public submissions after the first draft Bill to legalise certain production and use of cannabis was approved by Cabinet in 2018.

Submissions are open until 30 November before it will be considered by parliament.

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