The South African Drugs and Drugs Trafficking Act No.140 of 1993 lists Cannabis under “Undesirable Dependence-Producing Substances” and states that “Canabis (sic) (Dagga), the whole plant or any portion thereof, except dronabinol, is illegal.”
This law is still firmly in place. Not a day goes by when Fields of Green for ALL, The Dagga Couple and our legal helpline, JoinTheQueue, does not get a message from someone in trouble with the police. Or someone being tested for Cannabis at work for no reason. Or someone stressed out as Cannabis is being used in a custody battle.
The vast majority of people arrested will be punished before they even reach a court room. They will be locked up in cages, harassed, preyed on in their vulnerability. No matter how much we promote our Know Your Rights booklet, the situations that South African citizens find themselves in through their use of Cannabis are a daily violation of human rights and this perpetual influx of horror stories is the most difficult part of what we do.
On the other hand, a vast majority of people think that Cannabis is legal already! Everywhere we go we get the same misguided statements: “Oh, but it’s legal now, the Western Cape High Court said so” or “It’s legal now because the media say that licenses are being issued” or “It’s legal to grow at home / smoke at home / if you are using it medicinally” and the misinformation goes on.
Let’s put the record straight.
The Western Cape High Court Judgement handed down on 31 March 2017 is being appealed by the state. This appeal is set down to be heard in the Constitutional Court in Johannesburg (NOT the Supreme Court of Appeal in Bloemfontein) on 07 November 2017. It may take some months for a judgement to be handed down and then it will take about 2 years for the actual law to be changed by the legislature. Until then , the police can arrest you, put you in a cage and generally ruin your day and very possibly, your life. You may use the WCHC judgement in your defense at Magistrate’s Court level but to date we do not have a case that has been successfully concluded in order to create a precedent.
The issuing of licenses is a contentious one but, to date, NO LICENSES TO CULTIVATE, POSSESS, USE OR TRADE IN CANNABIS have ever been issued in SA. There has only ever been ONE license issued for research into Industrial Cannabis and that was given to one person. No Section 21 Application for the medicinal use of Cannabis for serious illness has EVER been issued by the Dept of Health, EVER! This is despite many legitimate applications being filed. As we have said many times, who is going to play god? The same people who keep locking us up? There will be regulations, of course, but let’s strive to make South Africa the FIRST license free zone in the Cannabis world. Cannabis licenses will be no different to corrupt tenders so consider where that has left us and our beautiful country. Become part of this conversation today.
How can you issue a license for an illegal plant? Putting the cart before the horse? For sure. Just consider the fact that those fluttering around the license issue do not have much of an appetite for supporting legal action to change the law. It is all about “What’s in it for me?” coupled with vague promises of “helping communities”. Why not help those communities where arrests are rampant and breadwinners in jail, at the same time as discussing the way forward?
So what about The Trial of the Plant? As most people know, the court proceeding were adjourned on Friday 18 August sine die (until further notice) and our legal team at Schindlers Attorneys are doing all they can to set a new date for next year. We will let everyone know as soon as we know the new date. For now we are strategising around the way forward. During the grueling 13 days in court we only completed the evidence of one witness, our history expert, Craig Paterson. Both our international experts, Dr Donald Abrams and Prof David Nutt, as well as our list of local experts, will have to return for round two.
What we have learned is that we have to allow all the defendants’ evidence to be heard, no matter how ludicrous, long winded or just plain wrong it may be. There are only so many issues that they can bring up and these issues have not changed in decades so we know what we are dealing with. It is also important to note that the burden of proof (the justification for the current laws prohibiting Cannabis) lies with the defendants.
Most important to note, in terms of legal procedure, is that the Pretoria High Court, with Judge Ranchod presiding, does NOT decide whether Cannabis is legal or not. The final judgement will be in the hands of the Constitutional Court. The Trial of the Plant only ends with the Con Court ruling.
One of the matters that delayed the start of the trial was the defendants’ objection to Fields of Green for ALL’s live stream of the trial on our website. After Judge Ranchod handed down two judgements in our favour, the state are petitioning the Supreme Court of Appeal to overturn these judgements. It remains to be seen whether the SCA will agree to hear the petition but papers are in and you can read the state’s petition and Fields of Green for ALL’s reply, HERE.
Although it may seem that we are in legal limbo with the Trial of the Plant, there are many projects going on the go – PAIA requests around the MCC rescheduling in parliament, Draft Proposals for regulation being researched and finalised, international and local affiliate programmes and, of course, fund raising to keep us going.
#TOTP and #CCC2017 cost a total of R868 862.74 and everything is paid for. We raised the money through donations, Green Network memberships, our affiliate & sponsor programmes, events and our 2015 crowd funding campaign. We never thought we would have to but it’s time to start from scratch again! Please consider becoming a monthly donor as part of The Green Network, signing up your business as an affiliate, visiting our shop or just foregoing the top grade and donating the difference. We now accept bitcoins too!
We hope this update helps to dispel some of the misinformation out there and answers the countless questions we are fielding. We took a break after the trial so this has been a bit long in coming but we are refreshed and confident for the road ahead.
Myrtle, Jules & William