Post-Prohibition Is Tailor-Made For Police Corruption – by Guy Oliver
Written by Guy Oliver. Guy is a Johannesburg-based photojournalist. He is a qualified Disarmament, Demobilisation and Reintegration operator.
Since the 2018 Constitutional Court supposedly decriminalised dagga police have made an estimated 340,000 arrests for alleged Cannabis offences. Welcome to the twilight zone.
A Gansbaai tenant discovered six Western Cape Overstrand municipal cops struggling to scale his perimeter wall in late January this year. The inhabitant Henk Taljaard, 58, recommended the officers use the unlocked front gate.
What began as farce quickly descended into a chapter wedding the cops’ conduct with the DRC’s ill-disciplined national army in its seamless embrace of lawlessness, arrogance and sloppy weapons-handling.
Packing aggression and botanical ignorance they bulldozed onto the property without a search warrant after the landlady’s tip-off a week earlier that her tenant was growing weed – omitting she had shared spliffs with the lessee.
The 21 Cannabis plants in 12 pots was deemed sufficient evidence to strip Taljaard of his constitutional rights conferred by a 18 September 2018 Constitutional Court ruling “decriminalising” dagga for private use, possession and cultivation and without imposing any quantity limitations.
The incident, and many like it, exposes “decriminalisation’s” inherent flaw in redefining dagga regulations by empowering the police as judge and jury in deciding whether to make a Cannabis arrest or not.
Mary Jane’s distinctive jagged-edged leaf is blood in the water for “crime fighters” either busking for a bribe or a distraction from confronting criminality recognised by the apex court.
The Constitutional Court ruling has “no grey area apart from within the minds of the police that when they arrest people for Cannabis and use language that you possess so much, it can’t be for any other reason other than dealing,” Simon Delaney, a lawyer specialising in Cannabis offences, said.
“Forget that the law has long since changed to remove that presumption of guilt.”
Cannabis is a complex organism with male, female and “hermaphrodite” forms that genders are only discernible months after planting.
It is the female of the species that is the devil incarnate for arguably the industrialised age’s longest running disinformation campaign – religion aside – that vilifies the feminine as imperilling sophisticated society’s moral underpinnings.
It has roots in colonial Natal’s 1870 Coolie Law banning the stimulants use, possession, cultivation or sale, for allegedly encouraging “laziness” among indentured sugar cane cutters exported from England’s colonial India.
The female flower is where the botanical magic is performed. The microscopic translucent trichomes dusting the bud are factories for producing various cannabinoids including the non-addictive, non-fatal Tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) – the ingredient for a high without a hangover and what causes all the fuss.
A 2020 UN World Drug report estimates 2,2 million among 60 million South Africans use Cannabis, compared to Iceland’s 60,000 users among a 350,000 population, where it remains illegal.
The cops, emboldened by numbers and law’s redundancy, made Taljaard fair game for the petty tyrant personalities lurking beneath a uniform and gun swag, and where “the cops don’t want to listen to nothing.”
Since Cannabis was “decriminalised”, research by the non-profit Cannabis advocacy and legal advisory service Stop the Cops, estimates the decriminalisation era through to December 2022 has recorded 340,942 Cannabis arrests, accounting for 65 percent of all “illegal” recreational drug busts.
Cannabis arrests are not itemised in crime statistics and lumped into all illegal drug offences. A look under the hood is afforded by 293 post-prohibition arrests after the victims gave testimonies to Stop the Cops. Among the findings – hallmarked by a general absence of search warrants – was that more than one third were robbed by police of possessions and/or money and one in ten were incarcerated for more than 48 hours.
Two years prior to the seminal 2018 Cannabis ruling, the Constitutional Court “clarified” in a judgement against the Police Minister that Cannabis’ warrantless search and seizures infringed privacy that cannot be justified and was unconstitutional.
Taljaard was being arrested under the legislative equivalent of sci-fi writer Phillip K Dicks’ “future crimes.” The cops citing the flouting of loosely interpreted laws grafted from the yet to be promulgated Cannabis Bill for Private Purposes – that incorporates jail time for a two adult or more household growing above the prescribed eight female plant restriction.
Lawyers and their clients are sharpening pencils to declare the Cannabis regulations an unconstitutional stillborn as soon as enacted, Stop the Cops’ victim support and administrator Charl Henning said.
The ANC government’s dithering has sailed through the court’s September 2020 deadline to amend Cannabis regulations with all the economic concerns of a trust-fund kid. A sober plan for Cannabis regulation is forecast to generate R28 billion annually and create hundreds of thousands of decent jobs.
Law firm Webber Wentzel in a legal opinion of the Bill last year said it “offends the Rule of Law” and “excludes entire sects of the population from lawful Cannabis use and cultivation without any valid or rational basis for doing so.”
Henning says the source of the “nonsense” is from the ANC government favouring fable rather than fact. The scientific research is settled. Cannabis is “a safer and more benign” adult use drug than alcohol or cigarettes, he said.
The ANC government’s prejudice towards a plant hides in plain sight. “Look who wrote the bill. It is the department of justice,” Henning said. The government has “to let go of this connection between crime and Cannabis. There is no connection. We are not dealing with plutonium here.”
Intimidated by six hostile cops illegally rifling through his and his sister’s home, Taljaard alerted a friend with a surreptitious text message who arrived at the “crime scene” to a cop’s greeting: “Klim in jou kar en fokof”.
The cops’ moods swung from jovial too threatening. Taljaard’s sister was muted by fear. They instructed Taljaard, a licensed firearm owner, to open his gun safe. One cop took a shine to the shotgun. The cop wandered into the backyard fiddling with an unfamiliar mechanism, inadvertently slipping-off the safety catch, sliding a round in the breech and discharging a shot into the ground. There were no injuries beyond a cop’s fragile ego.
The Bill’s complex formulas for arbitrary and varying restrictions for possession and cultivation – assigning the female as much voice as a Margaret Atwood handmaiden – coupled with different equations applied to public and private domains, as well as other bondage scales, smells like COVID-19’s Byzantine lockdown personal restrictions.
Assigning SAPS as judge and jury to micro-manage arbitrary possession and cultivation amounts is the Devil’s playground for a police force flippantly described – but not without sting – as “South Africa’s biggest crime syndicate.”
Home growers – either by choice or circumstance, when a single feminised seed can fetch prices in the hundreds of rands – will often recycle seeds sorted from a recreational Cannabis stash.
Cultivating seeds of unknown genders requires bulk planting as insurance against grower’s necessary culling of males and “hermies” that can easily account for more than 60 percent of a seasonal crop.
None of Taljaard’s Cannabis plants were identifiable as a female, but he conceded to the Strand sleuths they were Cannabis plants of an undetermined sex.
He was arrested and charged for 40 grams of Marijuana possession and growing weed in contravention of a non-existent law. The Hermanus public prosector “threw the case off the roll” telling Taljaard “We have much bigger and more serious problems to deal with.”
The Overstrand municipality did not respond to enquiries concerning the efficient and lawful deployment of law and order resources.
Written by Guy Oliver.
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