What is Responsible Adult Cannabis Use?
Regular adult users of Cannabis span across all socio-economic groups, in all geographical locations in South Africa. Responsible adult use is both the corner stone of our legal argument and the umbrella in which all other uses of Cannabis will become legal.
Why We Say Responsible & NOT Recreational
The association of Cannabis with dangerous ‘recreational’ drugs, as well as implying that use would be carefree or even irresponsible and reckless, makes the word ‘recreational’ inappropriate. The media and powers that be should use responsible adult use instead.
Adult Cannabis Use in South Africa
Since 18 September 2018, every citizen has had the right to grow and consume Cannabis in a private space. In a unanimous decision effectively “decriminalizing” Cannabis in South Africa, the Constitutional Court ordered parliament to rewrite the law pertaining to the personal use and cultivation of Cannabis within private spaces. At the time of this publication trade (or “dealing” as the prohibitionists call it), remains illegal in South Africa.
2018 Constitutional Court Ruling & The Road to the Right to Privacy.
The following laws prohibit the use, possession and trade of Cannabis in South Africa:
• Drugs and Drugs Trafficking Act 140 of 1992
• Medicines and Related Substances Control Act 101 of 1965 (the Medicines Act)
• Section 21 of the Medicines Act (Inadequate access to Cannabis warrants inclusion of this law here. It can be seen as enabling.)
2017 The Trial of the Plant
Thirteen gruelling days in the Pretoria High Court in 2017 taught us a great deal. Honourable Judge Ranchod began hearing our evidence, but a date for “The Trial of the Plant” to resume has yet to be set.
The Davis Judgement in the Western Cape High Court in March 2017 quickened the pace and the Constitutional Court confirmed the judgement on 18 September 2018. In a unanimous decision effectively “decriminalizing” Cannabis in South Africa, the Constitutional Court ordered parliament to rewrite the law as it pertains to personal and private use: that is, the personal cultivation, possession and consumption of Cannabis within private spaces. At the time of this publication, trade (or “dealing” as the prohibitionists call it) remains illegal in South Africa.
A Word on Privacy
There is an obvious contradiction between respecting the privacy of citizens and prescribing the quantity of Cannabis that may be cultivated. If there is to be no prescribed quantity of Cannabis for consumption, then why limit cultivation and possession?
Harms of Cannabis
Fields of Green for ALL and our constituency rejects the proposed Cannabis For Private Purposes Bill outright, as it is based on the perceived harms of Cannabis, the plant itself and the trade therein. This Bill is not based on evidence. In South Africa these “harms” have never been debated with scientific evidence and testimony from relevant experts, nor has any evidence for the supposed harms of Cannabis been presented before a court of law.
Prohibition and the South African Police Service
The harms of the prohibition of Cannabis far outweigh the perceived harms of the plant and the trade therein. This Bill constitutes the continued prohibition of Cannabis by giving the police undue power and, by doing so, guarantees that the stigma surrounding Cannabis and the uninformed actions of the police will prevail. This Bill does not constitute the “decriminalisation” of Cannabis in South Africa.
It is also important to note that there is a long list of stays of prosecution that have been granted to defendants in Cannabis cases, based on every citizen being equal under law in our Constitutional democracy.
Fields of Green for ALL has been at the frontlines with more than 100 stays of prosecution, as well as hundreds of documented cases where human rights were abused at the hands of police.
The harms of the prohibition of Cannabis far outweigh the perceived harms of the plant and the trade therein. This Bill constitutes the continued prohibition of Cannabis by giving the police undue power and, by doing so, guarantees that Fields of Green for ALL would like to think that, particularly given the current Covid-19 pandemic, our government would be putting the needs of the most disadvantaged in our society first.
Unfortunately, this Bill excludes the “poorest of the poor” – people who live in informal settlements and many in our nation’s townships and urban areas do not have private spaces where they can grow Cannabis safely and securely. On a positive note, though, the Cannabis Bill does make provision for the automatic expungement of all criminal records for convictions for possession of Cannabis in terms of section 4(b) of the Drugs Act. However, we know from our record of dealing with Cannabis arrests, that there are thousands of wrongful arrests for “dealing” and there does not appear to be any recourse for these victims of prohibition.
Adult Use – Commercial
This commercial pillar is without a doubt the most important part of the future legal market, in terms of employment, economic growth, investment opportunities, social development and international recognition for South Africa. To make sure that the opportunities of this market are open to all, regulations need to take into consideration the 6 Foundational Principles stated before. Therefore, the legal market must have two doors of entry: One for regular companies and business investors, and another specific modality of access for current participants in the unregulated Cannabis Industry, with specific attention to be given to the informal sector: the so-called “Kasinomics”. However, if a specific fit-for-purpose subset of less stringent rules must be established for Kasinomics, it is also important to shape a model that allows current farmers in the informal sector to scale up their capacities. According to Wandile Sihlobo, this will “encourage the integration of new entrants into the commercial sector, rather than perpetuate and entrench the duality that currently exists in South African agriculture.”6
Know Your Rights
You can still be arrested for Cannabis in South Africa. Even for small amounts for your personal use in your private spaces. Even for personal cultivation in your private space. It will take a very long time for the police to stop harassing us, profiling us and locking us up in cages. However, there have been many cases, since the judgement, where the police or magistrate has dismissed the case because it is clear that the accused knows his/her rights. Download Version 11 now of our Know Your Rights Document here.
“… the illegality of Cannabis is outrageous, an impediment to the full utilisation of a drug which helps produce the serenity and insight, sensitivity and fellowship so desperately needed in this increasingly mad and dangerous world.” Carl Sagan, Mr X, 1969.
This is a quote from one of the annexures to The Dagga Couple’s High court Affidavit. It is from an essay by the late, great Carl Sagan. To understand our argument in short, please download the full essay HERE.