Why haven’t we legalised cannabis yet South Africa? (Part 2)

2016-11-14 08:58

In light of a fairly recent ruling by the Constitutional Court that declared certain sections of the Drugs and Drug Trafficking Act unconstitutional and invalid a story written by reporter Yazeed Kamaldien titled ‘Blow for drugbusters’ was published on the IOL website on the 5th of November.

The opening claim reads “It is now illegal for police officers to randomly stop and search people or enter any premises looking for drugs, unless they have a search warrant”.

I sought to clarify the matter of searches without warrants by the South African Police Service (SAPS) as this news could doubtless lead to many South Africans jumping in joy that the anonymity and safety of their homegrown cannabis gardens would stand to benefit. I asked Dr Simon Howell, senior researcher at the Centre of Criminology in the Faculty of Law, University of Cape Town whether provisions in the Criminal Procedure Act (CPA) still allowed the SAPS to conduct searches without warrants. His response was “Indeed - related provision is also made in the Policing Act.

The reporter and I discussed this fairly extensively, however what ultimately ends up in print - and where emphasis is placed - is not at my discretion.” So it unfortunately appears that celebrations by the dagga growing fraternity are probably premature. I also posed a question to one of South Africa’s top cops, Major-General Jeremy Vearey as to his thoughts regards this constitutional ruling. The Major-General’s response was “I support the Concourt decision. It eliminates the arbitrariness and abuse of random and blanket targeting that often informed anti-drug operations. A step in the right direction away from the failed war on drugs approach. However, I support decriminalisation, and that includes the scrapping of the old Drug Act entirely.” (At the time of writing, his comment had garnered 22 Likes).

Let us briefly turn our focus to this week’s US presidential elections, which on Tuesday provided some interesting developments, besides Donald Trump becoming the new president-elect. News spread like wildfire on social media and the broader internet that four more states - California, Nevada, Maine and Massachusetts had all voted to support the legal use and sale of recreational cannabis. Three further states - Arkansas, Florida, and North Dakota also made it legal for doctors to prescribe medical marijuana to their patients. Smoking dagga is now legal, in some form or another, in 29 American states. What this latest round of ballot initiatives basically translates to is that one in every five Americans can now get legally high. The latest projections by business analysts predict that legal marijuana could grow to become a 22 billion dollar industry in the United States by 2020, up from $7 billion this year.

I would like to see South African legislators taking more of a leading role in engaging on the topic of dagga legalisation. For the most part their voices have been largely absent from the public discourse. Cannabis legalisation has moved from being a fringe issue to one of the mainstream and is growing in popularity here at home as polls consistently show a majority in favour of some kind of law reforms.

In closing I would like to inform all South Africans that the third round of constitutional dagga hearings is taking place in the Western Cape High Court in Cape Town on Tuesday the 13th of December. Whether you are a user of the cannabis plant or not, for or against our dagga laws being reformed, you are all heartily encouraged to come spend the morning with us discussing the pros and cons of this controversial topic on the steps of the High Court as we nervously anticipate and await the ruling of the full panel of judges inside.
This is a discussion that merits the involvement of all South Africans.

Read more on:    legislation  |  cannabis
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