Down with the Bill Sh*t!

By |Published On: May 9th, 2023|

Feedback on the draft Cannabis for Private Purposes Bill (B19-2020)

The Bill, the Bill, the Bill… What about the draft Cannabis for Private Purposes Bill now? 

We are perpetually required to respond to a document that moves further from the mark each time it is released for public comment. This last round has a surprise Hemp Section added, and as egregious as this is, Government seems hellbent on ignoring common sense and good advice in their quest to sequester Cannabis, for whatever shady reason. 

So, what do we at Fields of Green for ALL, our legal team at Cullinan & Associates, and the Umzimvubu Farmers Support Network (UFSN) have to say about it all?

Well, we are collectively annoyed that public comment, due on 28 April 2023,  was “strictly […] limited to hemp activities”. 

The notion that “hemp” and Cannabis are separate things makes no sense. The arbitrary THC limitations demarcating one as “hemp” (which should really read “Industrial Cannabis”), and one as Cannabis has no factual basis – this vastly complicates enabling participation in an emerging Cannabis Sector. In our Manifesto, we draw focus to the fact that “hemp” is purely vernacular and that the “concept of “hemp” is hard to apply to law and policy making, because it relies on popular designation rather than on evidence.” 

Evidently, the Portfolio Committee has not engaged with this document, crafted specifically to assist them in their formulation of an inclusive and enabling Bill that allows for a  sustainable and equitable Cannabis Sector to develop. 

In their response UFSN draws attention to the fact that the Bill is “intended to regulate only the personal and private use and cultivation of cannabis not the ‘commercialisation of hemp.’” This non-profit company also highlights that “almost every section of the Bill including the ‘hemp’ provisions, [render] it patently unconstitutional in many respects.”

Ultimately, should the so-called “hemp provisions” be enacted, the impacts on the OG Custodians of Cannabis, like the hundreds of thousands of amaMpondo the UFSN represents, will prove disastrous. 

In our own response to the Bill, we again had to ask for the “credible scientific and academic evidence” on which it is based. We also used the opportunity to ask exactly why Industrial Cannabis (rather than “hemp”) is “included in a Cannabis for Private Purposes bill” as well as why our “climatically appropriate ‘landrace’ cultivars” have not been afforded adequate protections. 

To reiterate the UFSN’s question: “Is the Government genuinely trying to say that the amaMpondo will need to destroy their ancient genetics and cultivars and instead cultivate imported ‘hemp’ varieties?”

This question speaks not only to the amaMpondo, but to all to the needs of all Cannabis Proponents – custodians of landrace, rural and urban cultivators, purveyors, distributors and consumers – to be recognised by Government in creating an inclusive, enabling, and sustainable Cannabis Sector, regardless of the purposes for which Cannabis is cultivated. 

Ultimately, existing knowledge of and relationships with the Plant should be at the forefront of any Cannabis Policy design. Thus far, very little active community engagement, through accessible platforms and relevant languages, has been seen. We are left shouting again that there can be NOTHING ABOUT US WITHOUT US!

We are unanimous in naming the Bill as “foundationally unconstitutional,” as highlighted by Paul-Michael Keichel of Cullinan & Associates. Paul-Michael further points out that the Bill has “attempted to claw-back on limitations to the right to privacy.”

Reflecting on Paul-Michael’s address in our Side Event at the Commission on Narcotic Drugs 66 hosted at the United Nations earlier this year in which he spoke on the Sustainable Development Goal of Reduced Inequalities, one cannot help but wonder if Government is at all aware of their hampering this realisation. 

If “Drug policy must be grounded in human rights,” Government, the Portfolio Committee, and relevant bodies are perpetually in contravention of our Human and Constitutional Rights to Cannabis, no matter the purposes for which it is cultivated. We need not be bound to arbitrary THC limitations to determine who may and may not cultivate, manufacture, produce and consume Cannabis in whatever shape or form. 

We stand fast – THE BILL IS (still) REJECTED!

Thank you to our FGA Affiliates who help to make our ongoing content creation possible!

Thank you to our FGA Affiliates who help to make our ongoing content creation possible!


About the Author: Leela Baer

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