Dagga: What to do and not to do

2018-09-19 09:36
Now we are free. Lucky and Busi Khabela celebrate the Constitutional Court’s landmark ruling that legalised the cultivation, possession and consumption of marijuana for private use.

Now we are free. Lucky and Busi Khabela celebrate the Constitutional Court’s landmark ruling that legalised the cultivation, possession and consumption of marijuana for private use. (Ian Carbutt)

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The Constitutional Court’s ruling that personal use of dagga is no longer a crime saw some celebrating on Tuesday while others called it “a disaster for South Africa”. 

The Constitutional Court on Tuesday ruled that the possession, cultivation and use of dagga for private use is allowed. Deputy Chief Justice Raymond Zondo said in the judgment “the right to privacy is not confined to a home or private dwelling. It will not be a criminal offence for an adult person to use or be in possession of cannabis in private space”.

While many took to social media to welcome the decriminalisation of the private use of cannabis, others warned that the ruling would see South Africa go up in smoke.

The Cannabis Development Council of South Africa (CDCSA) chairperson Krithi Thaver said they were “ecstatic” and that the ruling was “a long time coming”. Thaver said people had been fighting to decriminalise cannabis for 12 years and to have it go from “totally illegal to being able to use it in private is almost unbelievable”.

He urged those worried about the judgment to “take time to do research”.

He added the ruling was an opportunity for the country to “become world-class leader in supplying high quality cannabis to the global market”.

He said the CDCSA aims to ensure access to “safe, affordable medicine for all” as well as an opportunity for economic upliftment, especially within the rural areas.

“The CDCSA seeks to create cannabis abundance through a transparent and prosperous industry that is self regulated and compliant with the laws of South Africa,” he said.

However, director of Harmony Retreat rehabilitation centre at Greytown, Gad Avnon, said he had been studying the long-term effects on cannabis users for 25 years and believes the ruling could spell disaster for the country. He said legalising the private use of dagga would not help substance abuse in the country and there would be difficulty regulating the use of it.

“I can see a major disaster is about to happen. People will be driving under the influence of cannabis, going to work and school after using it and management won’t have the power to regulate it. I see patients every day who have had psychotic breaks where they only used cannabis and no other drugs.

“They usually started using cannabis at around 17 and now at 30 [years], they have a psychotic break and will never recover from it,” he said.

South Africans Against Drunk Driving (SADD) founder Caro Smit said she had recently been to a workshop where U.S.-based forensic toxicologist Dr James Wigmore spoke.

She said the active ingredients in cannabis and alcohol have the same effect. The active ingredient in cannabis is Tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) while the active in ingredient in alcohol is ethanol. “We are very concerned about the ruling. Cannabis stays in your body for much longer than alcohol. Our road deaths will go up as we find young people will be smoking and drinking and then driving.

“Our grandfathers’ cannabis is not our cannabis. The dagga grown today is 16-30% stronger than it was then.”

'Parliament to decide on quantity'

Deputy Chief Justice Raymond Zondo took the view that it should be left to Parliament to decide on the quantity of cannabis that an adult person may use, possess or cultivate in order for it to amount to “personal use”.

He said police would have to consider all circumstances, including the quantity of cannabis found in an adult person’s possession.

If the police officer, on reasonable grounds, suspects the person concerned is in possession of cannabis for dealing and not for personal consumption, the officer may arrest the person.

The courts will ultimately decide whether the person possessed the cannabis with the intent to deal (sell) or if it was for own consumption.

Twitter lights up in reaction

Twitter users took to the social media network following the ruling to express their opinions and thoughts. Here are a few of them:

@AdvBarryRoux: “What will happen to those who were imprisoned for the possession of Dagga. #Dagga #Weed”.

@just_fentse21: “If you know you didn’t blaze before the Con Court judgment, don’t start now. You weren’t with us when we were risking our lives #Dagga”.

@Mandla_Sms: “So September the 18th will go down in South Africa as a national weed Independence Day. #Dagga”

@AdvBarryRoux: “Now we need Land to grow Dagga. The Struggle continues. #Dagga”

@_Hybreed: “Weed smokers do not attack or kill someone. They just want to buy snacks and relax. #Dagga”.

@Vucy_nene: “No more hero selfies for cops on newspapers. #Dagga”

Dagga: New bill may be introduced

Parliament is considering introducing a new bill after dagga for private use was legalised on Tuesday.

The court gave Parliament 24 months to update legislation relating to marijuana to be in line with its ruling. 

“Parliament notes the judgment today by the Constitutional Court on the use of dagga or cannabis in private homes and the 24-month period within which the national legislature is expected to rectify constitutional defects in the Drugs and Drug Trafficking Act of 1992 and the Medicines and Related Substances Control Act of 1965,” it said in a statement.

“This could entail Parliament introducing a new bill. Alternatively, the executive, who were party to the litigation, could introduce a new bill to give effect to the order of the court.

“As required by the Constitution, the public will have an opportunity to make submissions during the processes in Parliament.”   

One of the issues Parliament will have to clarify is exactly how much marijuana a person can legally have in their possession for personal use. 

Two dagga myths busted

Some people assume that legalising the use of dagga will cause more teens to use it, and that legalising it will reduce the number of adults overdosing on opioids (pain medication), which is a critical problem in the U.S.

Neither is true, according to research.

Since medical marijuana first became legal in California in 1996, it’s been legalised across nearly three-fifths of the United States. However, that’s had virtually no impact on the rate of recreational marijuana use among teens, a broad review of published studies has found.

The results of both studies are published online in the journal Addiction.

“Several years ago, before the group of papers we [analysed] started to be published, people thought that U.S. medical marijuana laws would increase teen marijuana consumption by ‘sending the message’ to teens that marijuana was safe and acceptable to use,” explained Deborah Hasin, a professor of epidemiology at Columbia University’s College of Physicians and Surgeons in New York City, and the new study’s lead author. Hasin however said: “It doesn’t seem that teens were impacted much by this — perhaps because they didn’t find the legalisation of medical use very relevant to them or didn’t even know about the laws.”

The South African court ruling refers to the use of dagga in private, not to the drug used medically and obtained in marijuana pharmacies, as in the U.S.

The impact of marijuana legalisation also has been minimal on the risk for fatal overdosing among adult users of opioid pain medications, a separate study team has found.

American, Australian and British researchers found little to suggest that increased access to medical marijuana as an alternative way to manage chronic pain has led to any measurable drop in deaths from opioid abuse.

Despite the findings of both research teams, legalising medical marijuana is not consequence-free, Hasin said.

“Passing laws legalising marijuana use has some social benefits — business and tax revenues, job creation, and reduction in unfair race-based arrests,” she said.

“And while not every marijuana user experiences harms, using marijuana does have some risks, including withdrawal, addiction and increased chances of vehicle crashes.”

Legal cannabis market proves to be big business in the U.S.

The legal dagga industry has some eye-popping job-growth numbers in the United States.

The total number of job postings for the cannabis industry increased by 445% in 2017, as a host of states — including Nevada and Massachusetts — legalised the plant for adult consumption.

That’s up from just 18% growth in 2016, according to a study from ZipRecruiter, a job-search website.

Nine states and Washington D.C. have legalised cannabis in the U.S., though it’s considered an illegal, Schedule I drug at the federal level.

Because of that trend, there are now more dagga workers than dental hygienists in the U.S., according to Marijuana Business Daily, a financial-news publication focusing on the cannabis industry.

The higher end of their estimate range suggests there were 230 000 people employed in the U.S. legal cannabis industry in 2017, whereas there were 201 000 dental hygienists, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.

Consumers spent around $9 billion (R134,8 billion) on cannabis in 2017, according to the industry research firm BDS Analytics.

Now that marijuana is legal in California — by far the most populous state to legalise the drug — the report predicts the state will pull in over $5,1 billion in cannabis sales in 2018. For comparison, Californians bought $5 billion worth of beer in 2017, according to industry research group IBIS World.

Total spending on legal cannabis is expected to skyrocket to over $21 billion by 2021 for all U.S. consumers, the BDS report says.

 


Read more on:    pietermaritzburg  |  dagga

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