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Draft cannabis bill a downer

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… and highly contentious, says lobbyists

The first draft bill in South Africa to legalise certain production and use of cannabis, which was approved by the Cabinet and is currently open for public submissions. Picture: Ayanda Ndamane/African News Agency

Cape Town – The first draft bill in South Africa to legalise certain production and use of cannabis, which was approved by the Cabinet and is currently open for public submissions, has been described as encouraging prohibition.

Attorney Paul-Michael Keichel, who represented “dagga couple” Julian Stobbs and Myrtle Clarke, whose arrest in 2011 led to the September 2018 Constitutional Court judgment legalising personal use and possession of cannabis, said: “This bill is drafted by the Department of Justice, the same department that led the defence of the constitutional challenges and fought tooth and nail to hold on to prohibition.”

“I may not know the individuals behind the bill, but certainly we know they fought dirty in court and ultimately the judgment described their attempts to hold on to prohibition as singularly unimpressive.”

The discussion, hosted by the University of Pretoria, examined the question of whether the draft bill as a first step was a good step.

Founder of Siyazenzela Plant Biotech and Agricultural Consultants, Philasande Cele, said: “The bill is not a good first step because it does not help make the situation better, especially when it comes to the sanctions.

“The law has not been passed, the government is talking as if nothing will be done until next year, so what are people supposed to be doing right now when it comes to this bill with regards to usage, consumption propagation and selling among themselves?”

Stakeholder manager for cannabis lobby group Fields of Green for All, Suresh Patel, said: “The bill shows a total lack of understanding of cannabis as a plant. People don’t often talk about the harms of prohibition, preferring to focus on the harm of the plant.

“The bill contradicts the 2018 Constitutional Court ruling on privacy in general because essentially this bill speaks of plant counting as well as well as limits on how much dried cannabis can be held at home.”

At a separate forum, founder member of the South African Drug Policy Initiative, Dr Keith Scott, said: “The bill does not reflect the spirit of the 2018 Constitutional Court ruling. While affluent communities will benefit enormously from the bill as it stands, its requirements effectively exclude the millions of South Africans who lack the space to grow and consume cannabis in such strict conditions.”

To make submissions:

  • Submissions must indicate your interest in making a verbal presentation. Enquiries must be directed to Mr V Ramaano. Submissions must be emailed to [email protected] Copies of the Bill may be obtained from Mr V Ramaano, tel: (021) 403-3820 or 083 709 8427 or www.parliament.gov.zaThe deadline for submissions is 30 November 2020.

Cape Argus