We find ourselves starting all our recent blog posts with “Since the historic Constitutional Court judgement…” and the legal team have even been calling it BD & AD (before & after Davis) because this is where South Africa’s Cannabis Community finds itself. While many are organising themselves into private groups around personal use, the 24 months that the ConCourt gave the government to change the law is ticking away. South Africa needs pilot projects, from private initiatives stemming from our new rights, to policy initiatives that are going to be far more difficult to get off the ground.
This is why we made sure we were in Cape Town for SA Drug Policy Week. It is an honour to be among our fellow activists from around the continent and across the globe, but particularly our African peers, discussing policy work that is relevant for South Africa and Africa as a whole. This is not about best practice worldwide, this is about socially relevant solutions that are very carefully thought out. We find ourselves in a very uncomfortable place, stuck between the courts and the legislature and this conference is a great place to find solutions.
SA Drug Policy week addresses homegrown issues around broader drug policy and this reflects the fact that we are moving forward with these important issues. However, Cannabis policy is its own entity, with a particular set of challenges that is often sidelined due to it being seen as a ‘done deal’.
Cannabis policy is poised for a major shift on an international level over the next few months. In June this year, Fields of Green for ALL sent a video submission to the Joint Civil Society Contribution for the 40th Expert Committee on Drug Dependence (ECDD). This committee is part of the World Health Organisation and the WHO acknowledge the inconsistency of the scheduling of the Cannabis plant within the 1961 UN Convention and recognised the non-relevance of the inclusion of CBD among these schedules.
In November the 41st ECDD will sit down at the WHO in Geneva to conclude their critical review of Cannabis. The committee has been warned by civil society organisations from around the world that we are watching. Hopefully, most of the weakness and bias in the preparation process will be overcome. The personal & professional credibility of the authors of the reports, the experts who have consulted for the reports, and the WHO leadership will be on the table.
The definitive step will happen in March 2019 when UN member states with voting rights, South Africa included, will vote on the WHO recommendations during the Commission on Narcotic Drugs (CND) at the UN International Centre in Vienna.
One of our International Affiliate organisations, FAAAT , has been busy holding the WHO to account for their report. For example, they have denounced the use of Dr Bertha Madras as an expert for the report. This type of diligence is significant as you may recall that Doctors for Life had intended to call Dr Madras as an expert in The Trial of the Plant in 2017.
At SA Drug Policy Week, the relevance of the United Nations and such international bodies has been questioned. Yes, these bodies seem remote and superfluous considering the enormous issues at grass roots level. However, at Fields of Green for ALL we know that our opposition loves to use the international treaties as an excuse to negate our efforts, or stall the process of drug law reform. It is essential that we tackle the injustice we face every day from both on the ground and at the “highest” international level.
It is often the case that Cannabis and Cannabis policy is overlooked when it comes to broader drug issues and the huge social cost associated with substance use disorders. With big shifts happening, international Cannabis policy will never be the same again. However, action must be taken immediately in order to keep up the momentum and oppose the threat of a return to conservative and repressive rhetoric that comes from ultra conservative governments around the world.
To that end, our affiliates at FAAAT are organising an International Cannabis Policy Conference in Vienna, Austria from 7 – 9 December 2018. We would like to see a significant delegation representing South Africa.
The focus will be on Cannabis and the Sustainable Development Agenda.
We have to ask ourselves the question: How on earth is Cannabis going to contribute to sustainable development if we are forced to keep our use & cultivation personal and private? Lots to talk about and learn in Vienna in December. Lots to bring home and put into practice.