10 Crisis Points (In Our Cannabis Legislation Journey) – 2023 Revision

By |Published On: May 31st, 2023|

A slightly more in-depth look at the 10 Crisis Points

Since before the early days of Fields of Green for ALL gathering evidence for The Trial of the Plant to this very moment, Cannabis participants have been in Crisis.  Over the years, we have identified 10 Crisis Points across the Four Platforms: Responsible Adult Use; Industrial Uses; Medicinal Uses; and Traditional, Cultural, & Religious Uses.

Each Crisis Points speaks to the specific needs of a diverse nation with varied needs and means. Each one interconnected with the rest, reminding us that a holistic approach is the only way to properly liberalise Cannabis. We have compiled a Cannabis Manifesto to educate and guide lawmakers in crafting  inclusive, equitable, and sustainable Cannabis Policy.

To resolve the 10 Crisis Points, we need to define them, and elaborate on the details contained within them to ensure our Lawmakers are properly informed alongside you, our Cannabis Community. Knowing the issues we are bound up by will help us sharpen the tools to cut ourselves free! After all, how else are we to reach our Fields of Green for ALL?

Crisis Point 1 

Legislative vacuum: Where is the evidence for the Cannabis for Private Purposes Bill (B19-2020) and the National Cannabis Masterplan?

The draft Cannabis for Private Purposes Bill and the National Cannabis Masterplan contradict each other – a clear sign that our government does not have its Cannabis ducks in a row. Regulation and the law have to be based on evidence and science while aligning with the Constitution. 

Without these points being met, a new law is simply rendered unworkable. 

There is no scientific evidence concluding that Cannabis has to be regulated as a particularly dangerous substance. Yet our lawmakers insist doing just that while ignoring the evidence provided to them at public comments  on the Bill as well as commissioned research from independent parties. 

The science around Cannabis would be easy to prove in a court of law – we tried to achieve this with The Trial of The Plant. We brought both local and international experts to the court to provide the evidence surrounding Cannabis at that time.  However,  the trial was filibustered and is still pending completion.  

The evidence for Cannabis has NEVER been heard in a South African court of law. Should the opportunity present itself, we will finally be able to prove that Cannabis prohibition is based on lies rather than proof!

The Manifesto developed by Fields of Green for ALL has clear evidence-based regulations, with rigorous backing, laid out for lawmakers to adopt.  This would of course require them to leave dogma and superstition at the door, and to embrace science and truth instead.

Crisis Point 2 

Ongoing invasion of privacy & autonomy: Arrests, incarceration, & criminal records; divorce & custody issues; testing at work & school

Cannabis participants of any sort are still actively raided and arrested in South Africa. We are yet to see any kind of expunging of Cannabis-related offences and records, despite promises from the state to enact these. 

Ongoing arrests for the cultivation, possession, and use of Cannabis in private spaces is wholly unconstitutional, as outlined by the 2018 Constitutional Court ruling recognising the rights of South Africans to participate in these activities. 

Due to the ongoing “criminal” associations with Cannabis, the Plant is often used as a tool in custody battles and divorce cases by one partner against the other. Children are often the biggest victims in such cases, and may be prevented from seeing their “dope fiend” parent, even after the battle has been won. 

Employers continue to conduct Cannabis tests on employees, despite these tests not being accurate. Cannabis is stored in the fat cells of the body for roughly 30 days. Presence of Cannabis in Urine or Blood tests does NOT indicate impairment. Saliva tests are the only proven way to accurately gauge if one is under the immediate influence of Cannabis. However, these tests are new and have only arrived recently. 

Fields of Green for ALL is currently supporting a case in the Labour Court of South Africa where an exemplary employee lost their job thanks to an inaccurate application of a bodily fluid test in the workplace. Our hope is that no employee will ever be unfairly dismissed again for exercising their right to bodily autonomy outside of work hours in their private spaces. 

Crisis Point 3

Plant Counting / Thresholds: What evidence supports Plant Numbers & THC Thresholds?

Plant counting is as redundant as Cannabis Prohibition. There is no scientifically based support for the recommended quantities of plants and Cannabis one may have in one’s private space for personal use. 

In our recent public comments on the Cannabis for Private Purposes, the Portfolio Committee tasked with drafting the Bill admitted that they have no scientific support for the amounts they have recommended. 

This illustrates how  misinformed decisions by uneducated lawmakers lead to ongoing misguided notions and dogmatic malpractices. This further demonstrates the contradictions that exist between the Cannabis Masterplan and the Bill – both of which are in dire need of revision. 

Recognising the different purposes for which people cultivate and consume Cannabis and that these things are not universal among Cannabis proponents is a necessary step in upholding the Constitutional Court ruling that made full allowance for cultivation, possession, and use of Cannabis in private.  

By extension, the way in which the Plant is used culturally, traditionally, and/or religiously means that restrictions on quantity oversteps the rights afforded such practices. 

Plant counting also limits industrial applications of Cannabis, particularly in areas where it is used in construction, animal feed, soil remediation, and many other uses that are not limited to Responsible Adult Use.  

There is no reason for Police to enter private spaces in order to count, weigh, and seize Cannabis. This practice will simply open up further abuses of the South African Cannabis Community by an already corrupt Police service. 

Crisis Point 4 

Licences and the Dagga Dompas: Why must we prove our relationship with the Plant?

Medical Cannabis cards and licences must not be required to legitimise use in any way. The same way that licences further drive a wedge into our disproportionate society, so too do medical Cannabis cards. Both imply that one needs permission to access or participate in Cannabis and denies the Four Platforms of Use to enjoy equal access. 

We are left with nothing short of Dagga Apartheid. A medical Cannabis card is no more than a Dagga Dompas – akin to the permission booklets native and non-European people had to carry in South Africa, over an era the world saw some of the worst prohibition laws and treaties enacted. 

There is no evidence as to why we require Dompasse to access Cannabis, and they should not be required as protection against corrupt and belligerent police officers. We should not need to prove why we are making medicine from a well-studied and efficacious healing plant. 

The compromise required from the authorities – that is, all branches of lawmaking and law enforcement – is to allow a reasonable degree of self-regulation in the fledgling legal Cannabis industries of South Africa. 

The existing, mostly “unregulated” and quasi-legislated Cannabis industries and economies  are ready and willing to compromise their relative autonomy under prohibition for a regulated Sector that allows for best practice and customer safety without undue barriers to entry. 

“We are good at what we do and we will continue as before if you overregulate us or create regulations that only suit the rich. Good people disobey bad laws.” – Anonymous Underground Dagga Trader.

The process of licensing producers and traders of Cannabis -outside of registered medicines – is not widely appropriate in South Africa. Simply put, cultivation, production and trade hold various facets within the existing Cannabis industries, many which have proliferated in the informal sector for years with few negative events outside of undue persecution by the police.   

A system of business registration – where applicable – and affiliation to a Hub suited to the industry and trade of the area must be fully accessible to any willing market participant. 

Business registration serves the requirements of legal regulation and can fit into existing regulatory protocols – like used for alcohol or tobacco.

Registration criteria specific to the Cannabis industries involved must be developed and enforced through the office of the Cannabis OmBUDsman in conjunction with the Hubs.

Affiliation to Hubs can serve as de facto licences for those who do not have the necessary means to access business registration.

Hubs will also serve as testing centres to ensure that no matter what the end use of the Cannabis being facilitated, it will be safe for human or animal consumption. This will help to enforce better growing practices and remove the need for excessive licensing fees at cultivation.  

This is a simple and accessible resolution that can see all South Africans – particularly thousands of previously disadvantaged citizens – to have real opportunities to enter the formal economy. 

Kasinomics operators – vendors in our townships and poorer urban areas – will also more easily be able to participate in the legitimate market if provided sustainable access practices. 

The combination of registered businesses and Kasinomics operators within a single Hub will also contribute to broadening the knowledge base of those previously disadvantaged, helping to educate participants and grow the Sector as a whole. 

Medical and research Cannabis licences in South Africa have already proven that the system, and officials running it, are prone to corruption. We must not extend this into  the space occupied by non-medical cultivators, manufacturers, and traders. We should rather spend energy correcting the corruption that has already taken hold in certain industries.

Crisis Point 5

Official Ignorance:  The Last Apartheid Law & the Cannabis experiences of the Global South are still ignored by lawmakers.

There are 22 South African Government Departments affected by Cannabis legalisation. How many of these department representatives responsible for deciding the next step in Cannabis Policy know the history of The Last Apartheid Law?

The laws in South Africa that prohibit access to and participation in Cannabis are dated, racist, and anti-poor. It is necessary our lawmakers understand this and work to undo the Last Apartheid Law to protect present day South Africans from the many harms inflicted under prohibition. 

We started dealing with this issue in our very first short movie, Dagga: The Truth (2013). We fought for the relevance of our history expert in The Trial of the Plant and we still feel that the history of the persecution of South Africans because of Dagga remains largely unknown by those who are tasked with changing the law.

The first Cannabis prohibition law was passed in 1870 in the Natal Colony of South Africa. Indian indentured labourers imported by the British colonists were banned from using the Plant, despite being part of both their and the local culture. Colonial observations concluded “it renders the Indian immigrant unfit and unable to perform, with satisfaction to the employer, that work for which he was specially brought to this colony”.

1891 saw the Cape Colony outlaw Cannabis use, with the Orange Free state following in 1903. 

As a colonially unified nation in 1921, South Africa implemented national regulations on Cannabis, with the Plant being completely criminalised seven years later in 1928 under the Medical, Dental, and Pharmacy Act (1928) under the guise of political and moral reasons.

1937 saw the introduction of the Weeds Act, effectively banning any cultivation of Cannabis. 

 The Abuse of Dependence-producing Substances and Rehabilitation Centres Act of 1971 sprung from “concern” over the increased use of Cannabis in the country, and eventually in 1992 The Drugs and Drug Trafficking Act deemed possession of 115 g as a “dealing” amount. 

This is The Last Apartheid Law

Despite our 2018 Constitutional Court Ruling, this particular law is still used to enforce prohibition against Cannabis proponents from all walks of life, particularly those from poorer areas – the harsh legacy of the Apartheid era. 

The international influence of South Africa also needs to be addressed. In 1923, at the fifth session of the League of Nations Advisory Committee on Traffic in Opium and Other Dangerous Drugs, South Africa made its case to include Cannabis on the list of prohibited narcotics. The Plant was internationally outlawed in 1925. 

Crisis Point 6 

Overselling economic benefits: Economic benefits are promised despite legislation continuing to criminalise existing markets and participants

Government is guilty of selling the many benefits to reap from a legitimised Cannabis Sector while failing to provide the necessary frameworks by which to develop the Sector. With evidence lacking in regulations and continued excessive barriers to entry, few are able to actively participate in the Cannabis industry they are most familiar with or interested in.

We are facing a grey landscape overrun with contradictions. Media focus continually shifts between arrests and raids on “Cannabis Operations” in people’s private spaces and the successes of a licensed Cannabis facility in completing their first resource-intensive season or export to a foreign client. 

Our existing Legacy Cannabis community – custodians of our Landrace Cannabis and much of the culture surrounding Cannabis interactions  as well as stalwarts across the unregulated sector – have no feasible point of entry. This deepens the confusion many feel about the legal processes underway at a snail’s pace as well as their active exclusion from the market they developed and nurtured throughout prohibition. 

The barriers to entry – cost and facility requirements – are beyond the reach of most. Without licensing (permitting for Industrial Cannabis), South African citizens who interact with Cannabis continue to be criminalised and actively persecuted. 

Evidence-based regulation must be a priority of lawmakers to ensure we enable an inclusive and equitable Cannabis Sector to develop from the existing markets. This will help ensure a Sector that is robust and sustainable. 

Educating Lawmakers and law enforcement is core to this, as is the requirement for the government to officially call an end to the unlawful arrests of South Africans exercising their Constitutional Rights.

Crisis Point 7 

Cannabis Industries speaking in Vacuums / Silos: Protectionism is out-competing equitable development in the Cannabis Sector

Most of the initiatives we see developing for the various industries of the Cannabis Sector are thanks to Local Government and Private Enterprises. Unfortunately, there is conflict between those involved, with each province or company seeking to be the centre of their respective industries if not the entire market. 

The protectionism within this has led to development happening more in a vacuum than as part of the whole, with conflicts arising rather than solutions. Regulations and licensing are used to isolate industries for a privileged few while arrests and persecution of Cannabis proponents that fall outside of these silos continue to destroy lives and livelihoods. 

Fields of Green for All recommend implementing a central Cannabis office with an omBUDsman to regulate the Cannabis Sector. This office can consist of representatives from various government departments that can vote and shape our regulations so that the sector develops inclusively and equitably. 

The omBUDsman we recommend can also form an integral part of drafting our Cannabis for Private Purposes Bill to be centred Human Rights, ensuring that the existing market is legitimised through active consultation with existing market participants. This will also help include the various custodians of Cannabis to gain access to the Hubs in order to proactively contribute to realising the promises made by the Government in unleashing the Plant. 

Round-table consultations are the only place we can truly ensure inclusion, equity, and sustainability into legitimising the entire Sector. 

Crisis Point 8

Industrial Cannabis (“Hemp”):  Where is the last 20 years’ of research conducted under state-sanctioned permits? 

South Africa has been conducting research on Cannabis since the 1990s. However, there has been little to show for this aside from conflicting interpretations of the quantities of THC of the plants and their uses. 

The recent public comments hosted by the Portfolio Committee for the Cannabis for Private Purposes Bill (a process overseen by the Ministry of Justice and Correctional Services no less) were required to centre on the recent surprise addition of Industrial Cannabis. 

A clear message was heard from the majority of presenters – representing various industries and communities in the Cannabis Space – that THC limitations will lead to the mass exclusion of the existing market. The most significant portion of this is occupied by the rural farmers who have a legacy cultivating Landrace cultivars that are perfectly acclimated to their areas while expressing about 3-8% THC. The Plants typically grow wild and tall, with stalks and leaves finding more industrial uses once the flower has been harvested to support livelihoods.

However, our invaluable Landrace heritage and the custodian communities are being excluded on impractical THC limitations – even the more recently recommended 2% THC will still see growers lose out on a season or be persecuted for growing “hot hemp”. Our sunlight simply elevates THC levels and so we need to end THC fear. Of course, raw plants in the field are not psychoactive as the THC-A still needs to convert to THC through curing, something which is of no relevance to a plant cultivated for industrial purposes. 

Should “hemp” genetics be introduced widely, the local Landraces cultivars will face risk of pollen drift, and the specifically sourced, costly Industrial Cannabis seeds will yield a plant that cannot be classified as “hemp” due to arbitrary THC limitations unsupported by any evidence.  

The seeds are also costly and largely illegal to purchase. 

This comedy of errors reveals that our government has not acted in any way that gives potential growers any faith in authority at all. Regulations just reflect lukewarm intentions informed by gross ignorance, nothing else.

Crisis Point 9

Cannabis issues as political suicide: How do we support lawmakers that continue to ignore Cannabis issues?

Who are WE going to vote for?

No political party in our country has bothered to use this hot topic successfully as leverage, even though Cannabis seems to have massive support everywhere one looks. 

For how long will our Dagga be ignored at the various political levels of our nation? 

Next year we mark 30 years of democracy in South Africa. It is also an election year. Unleashing Cannabis for our nation is the perfect opportunity for the government to build on the legacy of our countless brave freedom fighters whose life’s work was to see an inclusive and equitable society spring forth from the ashes of Apartheid. Why then are we still facing Dagga Apartheid?

It is so FRUSTRATING to see those most able to benefit from the current legislative grey area ensure that others are actively excluded from contributing to the many economic benefits Cannabis holds for our nation. 

Ultimately, our Cannabis Community deserves action over the lukewarm promises by politicians! Many of our current political figures are where they are today because of the livelihoods afforded their families by Cannabis – certainly they should repay the favour.

Crisis Point 10 

Drug education for the Youth: Start telling our youngsters the TRUTH! 

The youth of today are more equipped than ever to find the truth for themselves – being economic with the truth only deepens their mistrust of authority and discourages them from seeking guidance where it is needed. 

As our dearly departed Julian Stobbs, used to say: “Anybody with a phone with internet access has the key to the sum of all knowledge in their pockets”. 

Teenagers experiment with Cannabis. It usually does not take them long to figure out that the drug education they are receiving at school and possibly at home is misinformed and inaccurate. However, few will listen to them because they are “just kids”.

Factually flawed posters in courts, hospitals, and schools that group Cannabis with far more socially and individually harmful substances are nothing short of fear mongering. Misinforming youngsters about the potential harms of Cannabis – and other substances – is unfair. 

Proper education on Cannabis use – as well as drug use – is a necessary step in Harm Reduction. This requires educators, law enforcers, and lawmakers to be properly informed about the benefits and potential harms of Cannabis in relation to other substances, so that factually correct information is provided to our youth. What a community learns on public education posters should reflect the latest substantiated facts, not superstitions and personal beliefs of those putting the information out. 

Honesty about Cannabis use with the right Harm Reduction steps in place will help our youth understand the necessity of regulations to limit use where relevant (Responsible Adult Use) and to equally allow access where needed (Industrial Use; Health Uses; and Cultural, Traditional, & Religious Uses).

Thank you to our FGA Affiliates who help to make our ongoing content creation possible!
SUPPORT THOSE WHO SUPPORT LEGALISATION

Thank you to our FGA Affiliates who help to make our ongoing content creation possible!
SUPPORT THOSE WHO SUPPORT LEGALISATION

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About the Author: Leela Baer

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3 Comments

  1. Kenzo June 12, 2023 at 11:31 am - Reply

    They can cut the plant down, but the seeds will always give rise to a new plant. These so-called legislations will not stop the plant from growing, and the people will always use the herb

  2. Noesjka June 3, 2023 at 10:52 am - Reply

    Love this. Thanks for all that you all do.

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