No beating about the bush

2017-02-02 10:58
Despite two bills aiming to make the dagga plant legal for medical reasons, the police and public continue to criminalise users.

Despite two bills aiming to make the dagga plant legal for medical reasons, the police and public continue to criminalise users. (File)

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OPINION - Last month, in an old-age home in Pietermaritzburg, a matron grabbed a small bottle of cannabis oil from a pensioner and poured the contents down the drain, telling the pensioner that dagga is illegal.

Now, before we get into the healing properties of cannaboids, let’s look at the two victims in this sad little incident.

Two victims? Yes, one victim the pensioner who lost a cheap painkiller, the second, the matron who has been brainwashed by 90 years of lies. Of the two, I would argue it is the matron who needs our sympathy the most.

For those lies about dagga have their roots in the 1880s British imperialist view that white people are superior to the more “savage” races, as evidenced in the 2009 thesis on the history of dagga in South Africa by Rhodes historian Craig Paterson.

While the pensioner’s mind is no longer shackled by this racist law, the matron still believes the lie that cannabis is a dangerous drug.

While the plant’s extracts can be abused, cannabis is in fact an easy-to-grow herb, the extracts of which are claimed to offer anti-inflammatory pain relief, fight several cancers and alleviate Alzheimer’s, to name but a few of the pant’s medicinal benefits.

Dr Mario Oriani-Ambrosini and advocate Robin Stransham-Ford believed these benefits were enough reason to make cannabis legal and train rural people to sell graded harvests twice a year at open auctions, as is done with wool and diamonds. Both these two great men were dying of cancer when they drafted the Medical Innovations Bill (MIB) in 2014. While they hoped to make all dagga legal, carrying just 0,006 grams of a flower still lands hundreds of people in jail each week, as happened to a 20-year-old cyclist in Killarney Valley last month. As is often the case in these “dagga busts”, five police vehicles and at least 10 officers were on hand to stop one skinny young man from cycling home, allegedly choking and manhandling him into a van, and at the station allegedly intimidating him to sign an admission of guilt and then leaving him with a criminal record on an open docket. All for carrying a pinch of dried petals from a flower that some doctors claim activates our endo-cannaboid system to keep us healthy.

The irony is, if the young man had cash on him, a “spot fine” would have made all his troubles disappear. Or if he had known the law, he could have quoted paragraph seven of the MIB, which states: “No one shall be liable or guilty of any offence for growing, processing, distributing, using, prescribing, advertising, or otherwise dealing with or promoting cannabinoids for purposes of treatment and commercial or industrial uses.” This paragraph is supposed to become law in April, and you’d think since it was tabled in 2014, our magistrates, prosecutors and police would have taken note that times are a-changing when it comes to weed. 

Instead, the police still issue weekly press releases boasting about their latest dagga haul following a tipoff, despite this being ruled against by the Constitutional Court in July last year. The ConCourt ruled that sections 11 (a) and (g) of the Drugs and Drug Trafficking Act, which allow police officers to search and seize drugs without a warrant, “infringe on the right to privacy to a degree that cannot be justified”. 
This ruling means all search and seizures without a warrant since July 27, 2016, are unconstitutional.

Perhaps the cops ignore this ConCourt ruling because, as all old cops know, the more things change, the more they stay the same. 

For instead of Parliament passing the MIB into law to allow dagga in every garden, SA’s large pro-cannabis community predicts, come April, MPs will shelve the MIB to wield the heavily lobbied Medicines Control Act, which will allow only a few pharmaceutical companies to grow, make and sell very expensive cannabis products. 

Meanwhile, the 150-year-old civil disobedience movement whose millions of members have always defied SA’s dagga law, grows daily (pun intended). They argue that cannabis makes people healthier and free of pain and agree that the denial of this is, in Oriani-Ambrosini’s words, a crime against humanity. 

In KZN, the SA Cannabis Community and Regulatory Association (SaccRa) spearheads the campaign to stop this crime against humanity. 

Its aim is to set standards to grow and process cannabis into strong, low-cost medicines. In this, it — and all dagga users — are opposed to the policies of seven government departments that are being sued by the so-called Dagga Couple. Their case (nr 58668/2011) is scheduled for the Pretoria high court in June, and argues that the seven departments, as well as Doctors For Life International Incorporated, are prohibiting cannabis for reasons that are based on Social Darwinism, poor politics and non-science. 

Witness readers who want to join the pro-cannabis crusade can do so on the websites of SaccRa or Fields of Green For All.

Read more on:    pietermaritzburg  |  dagga

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