September 18th 2018 was a good day for cannabis activists in South Africa. In a landmark ruling by the Supreme Court, South Africans were now allowed to use and grow marijuana for private consumption. 

This is a far cry from 1928, when marijuana was made illegal in South Africa and prohibited from being used medically or recreationally. Before this momentous occasion, cannabis activists rallied for years to highlight the benefits of the green leaf. Let’s find out why South Africans are so high on life when it comes to marijuana seeds.

  1. What is cannabis activism?
  2. Previous policy
  3. Advocacy groups
  4. What you need to know about the new law
  5. What’s next for cannabis in South Africa? 

What is cannabis activism?

Simply put, a cannabis activist’s main purpose is to further the cause of the herb. How do they do this? By promoting all the benefits of the marijuana seeds and highlighting why legalisation of it is harmless. This is done with marches, cannabis news articles, etc.

Previous policy

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 country’s 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 South Africans have been actively rallying against the outdated and obscure laws surrounding cannabis ever since it became a banned substance.

Advocacy groups

Naturally, with a banned substance, a ‘rebellion’ is born in the form of cannabis advocacy. 

Dr Frances Ames

In 1995, human rights activist Dr Frances Ames concluded that the cannabis plant could be of use for cancer patients. She sent her findings, along with a plea to decriminalize cannabis, to the South African Medical Journal. Unfortunately, her plea fell on deaf ears.

Gareth Prince

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, citing 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.

Justice Dennis Davis

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 2019. 

The Dagga Couple

Julian Stobbs and Myrtle Clarke are known as the "Dagga Couple". In August 2010, their property was raided and they were arrested on charges of possessing and dealing in dagga.  After suing seven governmental departments in 2010, “Fields Of Green For All” was founded. The organisation’s aim: “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.”  

The Cannabis Development Council of South Africa

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, elected representatives of which will form part of, and be associated with, the National Hemp Foundation, to help regulate and control the cannabis industry of South Africa. 

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 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

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.

The Bobby Greenhash Foundation

Due to the government’s 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

Tony Budden of Hemporium is a world-respected hemp activist, which he explains is 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 more recent years, peaceful ‘protests’ aiming to bring to light the sheer volume of Cannabis users, whether it be for medicinal, recreational or industrial use. 

What you need to know about the new law?

On the 18th September 2018, Deputy Chief Justice Raymond Zondo, declared that after a unanimous judgement, the possession and cultivation of cannabis in a private dwelling was decriminalized, and gave Parliament 24 months to adjust the correlating legislation. 

Under the new law: 

  • The personal use of dagga is not a criminal offence, nor is the cultivation or possession of it in private.
  • It is illegal to deal marijuana, sell it to others, or smoke it outside of your own home.

The government is still making a decision as to how much cannabis a person may use in private, and the age restriction for use.

What’s next for cannabis in South Africa?

South Africa is one of many countries that have that have legalized cannabis. Like our country, Canada’s legalization laws have also been amended. In October 2018, the Canadian courts ruled that growers can now obtain a license by the federal government, and then individual provinces determine how the product gets distributed and sold.

These rulings, while significant for cannabis enthusiasts in South Africa, brought on a whole new set of burning questions. The most important one: what now?

The court ruling opened up another wound for cannabis activists - the issue of licensing. As it stands, the legislature only grants licensing to grow cannabis for medicinal purposes. According to the Cannabis Compliance Bureau, a licence can cost up to R6-million.

During his first Budget Speech, Finance Minister Tito Mboweni has acknowledged the growing cannabis industry and stated that said that there will be a change in policy, so that the industry can become a potential source of revenue.

For more industry updates, AskMaryJ.com will keep you up-to-date and connect all South Africans to the people fighting for our cannabis rights. Stay tuned!

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