A Is For Activism – Cannabis Activism In South Africa

November 09, 2018
Author: Mary Jane

A Is For Activism – Cannabis Activism In South Africa

Marijuana was made illegal in South Africa in 1928, meaning that under no circumstances was the substance allowed to be used medically or recreationally. 

The current policy in place against marijuana is the law in terms of the Illicit Drug(s) and Trafficking Act 140, of 1992, it prohibits the possession and dealing of cannabis in its entirety inside our countries borders. This act means that anyone found in possession of marijuana is subject to prosecution to the full extent of the law. The policy has been unsuccessful in its main aim which was to deter people from using cannabis, instead we have seen the use of cannabis increase in south Africa and in 2009 the country was named Cannabis capital of the world. South Africans have been actively rallying against the outdated and obscure laws surrounding cannabis ever since it became a banned substance.

In 1995 the late Dr Frances Ames, who was also a human rights activist concluded her study on the Cannabis plant and its uses for cancer patients and sent her findings along with a plea to decriminalize cannabis to the South African Medical Journal, her plea fell on deaf ears.

The first ever constitutional challenge to the South African cannabis laws was brought to the courts by Gareth Prince. Prince first challenged the constitutionality of the Drugs and Drug Trafficking Act almost two decades ago on the grounds that it violated his right to freedom of religion as a practicing Rastafarian, which entailed regular cannabis use. His application argued that there ought to be an exception made for Rastafarians to practice their religion. In 2002, the Constitutional Court ruled that the Drugs Act was not unconstitutional due, in part, to the fact that the harm caused by cannabis was unknown at the time but also because a religious exemption would be incredibly difficult to enforce. The Constitutional Court was also far from unanimous on this point and split five versus four against the application. Prince was subsequently struck off the law society board.

Fast forward a couple of years to March 31, 2017, Justice Dennis Davis handed down a judgment in the Western Cape High Court that declared sections of the Drugs and Drug Trafficking Act, 1992 invalid and unconstitutional.

The applications brought by Gareth Prince, Jeremy Acton and Jonathan Ruben argued that the criminalisation of dagga use, and possession was a violation of the right to equality, dignity and freedom of religion. Interestingly, however, Davis instead chose to address their challenge almost solely within the context of the right to privacy. Prince had raised arguments on privacy, arguing that the distinction between dagga, alcohol and tobacco was irrational and could not be justified. The state appealed the ruling allowing for private use at home, the issue is said to be heard in the constitutional court in 2018. 

A group of “self-appointed” South Africans have a plan in order to regulate the Cannabis industry and that plan goes by the name of CDCSA. The proposed CDCSA (The Cannabis Development Council of South Africa) is an all Inclusive Self-regulating Cannabis Industry Association whose elected representatives will form part and associated with the National Hemp Foundation to help regulate and control the cannabis industry of South Africa. 

The “Dagga Couple”, Myrtle Clarke and Julian Stobbs were arrested in their home for possession of marijuana. After suing seven governmental departments in 2010 “fields of green for all” was founded. Fields of green for all aims to “Through constructive discussion with interested individuals, parties and potential stakeholders in the South African Cannabis legalisation movement, we support litigation and are engaging with policy makers in order to construct South Africa’s Cannabis future in all of its varied facets. Since 2010, the call for the legalisation of Cannabis in South Africa has become increasing difficult to ignore.

It is no longer possible for individuals to take on this enormous task personally and that is why “Fields of Green for ALL” has been established. As founders, we look forward to working with ALL interested parties. We do not claim to have all the answers and it is not our intention to dictate the process. This organization is about inclusivity through constructive dialogue and input.”- extracted from Fields of Green For All.

An ongoing trial, named the “Trial of the plant” was brought to court by the dagga couple. The trial involved many world-class leading experts on cannabis and its effects on the body, going head to head with the State and in an effort to change the legislation surrounding cannabis and its uses. The trial has not yet concluded and has just been postponed until further notice.

Join the Queue is another initiative started by the dagga couple which offers legal advice to those who have been charged with Marijuana related charges. From bail appearances to stay of prosecution papers, join the queue has a team of lawyers who are clued up and willing to help with all things cannabis related.

Due to the governments standpoint on cannabis it is up to the people of South Africa to source information on Cannabis and its many benefits. The Bobby Greenhash Foundation is an organization that is dedicated to helping everybody who requires information, advice and support in the use of natural products, medical cannabis, cannabis extracts, traditional medicines and natural healing.

Tony Budden of Hemporium is a world respected hemp activist, which he explains as someone who is “trying to build a green future for the planet by using sustainable resources for everything that we need”, the all-encompassing sustainable resource being spoken about is hemp and the mission is to decriminalize hemp and let it be seen as the multi-faceted resource it is.

There have been multiple “Cannabis Marches” across South Africa in the more recent years. Peaceful ‘protests’ aiming to bring to light the sheer amount of Cannabis “users” whether it be medicinal, recreational or industrial use. 

On the 18th September 2018, Deputy Chief Justice Raymond Zondo, in a trial held at the constitutional court, declared that after a unanimous judgement that the personal use, possession and cultivation of Cannabis in a private dwelling was decrimilised and gave parliament 24 months to adjust the correlating legislation. 

ASK MARYJ, your cannabis advisor,  connecting South African’s to the people fighting for our cannabis rights. One Love.

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