Cannabis for Private Purposes Bill 2020 lacking science & rationale

With as little public participation as the predecessor Regulation of Cannabis Bill, we see the government hastily doing the bare minimum to adhere to the Con Court judgement in Sept 2018 with this new Bill. Sadly we won’t see an economic boom from this plant just yet, or will we?

Omitted in the previous Bill, we now have a preamble. The philosophy of the new Bill is set to respect the plant, regulate the plant, protect humans from the harms of the plant, expunge those criminalised and amend affected laws. This is a poor excuse of a preamble - try again with something like, “While the government continues to drive this country to it’s demise, Cannabis is the sunrise emancipating crop restarting our economy in the greenest way, that ALL who choose - will be beneficiaries of cannabis use and trade.” Although this is all too utopian. 

We are given an acute definition of “Cannabis”, “cannabis plant” and “hemp” which is invaluable in clearing this incredibly muddy water of legal status of cannabis in SA. “Cannabis” includes flowers, fruits, leaves, any substance with THC, cannabis concentrate (extract/isolate), dried cannabis and fresh cannabis. “Cannabis” excludes seeds, seedlings, stalk and roots!  When we jump into the defined “Cannabis plant” we see it specifically excludes hemp! YAY! “Hemp” is defined as low THC (% to be confirmed - looking like 2%) and hemp must be cultivated under regulation from necessary department (DAFF). This is huge as it opens the door for industrial hemp.



Much like the previous Bill - we got the parameters for cultivation, possession and use. While the numbers are marginally different to the Regulation of Cannabis Bill - it remains only private use. Here are the numbers (assume +1 adult per homestead):

  • Cultivation material: unlimited seeds & seedlings
  • Growing: up to 8 plants.
  • Possession at home: up to 1200 grams
  • Possession (concealed) in public: up to 100 grams dried cannabis (this includes for transporting) or 1 cannabis plant.
  • Must be stored out of reach of children.
  • Interesting to note that one may “gift” (not for remuneration) up to 100 grams before you worry about the police.

Offences regarding children.
No-one may sell to children or use children to sell and anyone caught administering cannabis to a child can be jailed for 15 years (Class A offence) In the previous Bill we found a medical exemption which does not appear in this Bill. It is worth mentioning that children may assist in the cultivation of cannabis provided it is supervised by parent or guardian.

The effects on other laws are as follows:
National Road Traffic Act: We see THC being thrown in with alcohol regulation and one would be over the limit if more than 0.05g per 100 millilitres in blood or 0.24mg per 1000 millilitres on your breath. Severe lack of science and rationale behind this move - how does one accurately measure THC? Alcohol and cannabis are worlds apart in terms of cognitive affect and should NOT be regulated in the same line of legislation.
Child Justice Act: Allowing for supervised cultivation.
Drugs & Drug Trafficking Act: REMOVAL OF CANNABIS, DRONABINOL and THC from the Act - this is MASSIVE! This is the move many of the industrial hemp farmers have been waiting for!

As lobbyists for the Cannabis Industry Development Co-Operative WC, we have been banging on the vacant office of Dept Agri Affairs and if we got a ‘piep’ back from them, it was that 'cannabis is an illicit substance' under the Drugs Act and therefore they cannot touch cannabis. Now we will wait for DAFF to act, knowing their Chairman recently quit due to an incompetent office which I am first hand witness. All DAFF needs to proclaim is something like “use the cotton/wine/corn/wheat model” and we could proceed - alas their silence is deafening. It is suggested going ahead with your hemp farm and self-regulate according to GAP. When the police show up, inundate them with paperwork and 5 months later your crop will be harvested and processed. (Not an official opinion)

WHAT NOW THOUGH?
Hemp has been freed! This is a big move in the right direction and we finally can put aside all our useless SAHPRA contacts as agricultural/industrial cannabis farming can now be regulated by our Agriculture Department and not Health (wild hey?). Maybe we can rely on the 10 years of cannabis research from House of Hemp - oh yes - that’s right - she didn’t publish any research journal over 10 years on her research permit. We desperately need to officiate our landraces so we can from at scale.

WHAT ABOUT THE COMMERCIAL BENEFITS?
Don’t you worry, there are plenty commercial benefits for trade of cannabis in SA already. Just as long as you have a boat-load of cash, international take-off agreements and your hand feeding into the right back pocket. Zetlers have already shipped out their first cannabis harvest this year. Crazy to think the ANC Cabinet (ahead of SONA) stated that IF CANNABIS, it must benefit those previously disadvantaged yet we already see the establishment of a monopoly in CBD trade, and incredibly exclusive cannabis trade. This is directly against the NDP and bordering Unfair Discrimination against those who don’t have their assets lined up.
This is a plant for the people! We need to eliminate the barriers for entry and open this green economy for ALL!

PUBLIC INPUT
It has been quite something to witness our continued efforts shut down to assist government in policy development for the regulation of something that the same regulators were entirely opposed to a mere couple of months ago. How can these parties be paving the way for cannabis if they inherently think it’s a harmful drug? How can you jump a few steps in the legislative process by excluding public and arrive where we are now? Probably because they ran out of time while sitting on their hands ignoring us lobbyists.
We trust we will get a word in in Parliament when the topic is tabled, or will we be flashed with Covid circumstances and be excluded. DAFF and Min of Justice will loose in court if challenged against S36 of our Constitution.

The promulgations lack scientific evidence that regulate the presence of THC which is known to stay in one's system for days. The rationale behind a very low THC limit for Hemp crops will be difficult to pass our S36 Constitutional deviations and I can't wait to see these ministries 'please explain'. We should prod with the right questions and quickly see the agenda behind what currently sits on our table. 

Ultimately it is sad to see that our government continues to overlook the imminent and direly needed value of this industry. 1 September marks planting season - let’s see what regulatory developments will unfold until then.  We’ve been reassured we’ll be planting this year still, but this is the 5th year we’ve been told as such.

Peace and love to all
Joshua Swart


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