Dear Honourable Members of the Committee on Justice and Correctional Services
Thank you for allowing the public to make submissions on this deeply rooted cannabis conversation. As an active cannabis lobbyist, we have awaited this opportunity to be heard to for years. I am Joshua Swart, deeply vested in the cannabis industry for almost 5 years and pleased to present this ‘Promised Land’ report with the possibility of many fruits for the betterment of all in South Africa.
South Africa stands at the rubicon of mass emancipation and poverty alleviation if we ‘root’ this industry correctly. In the fullness of time, we can enter the Promised Land, one where there is prosperity and abundance for all. Cannabis can play a key role in achieving this. Sadly we already see this industry falling by the wayside and the rich getting richer off cannabis trade. As legislators, I would appeal to you to address this as a matter of urgency.
Please allow me to showcase how the proposed Bill unfortunately goes against government development plans and policies. While there a number of shortcomings in the Bill, I will focus on two matters:
1) Accessibility to the hemp industry with current Bill wording.
2) A refocus from dealing with cannabis offenders as social issues rather than criminal.
Unfairly restrictive agricultural threshold of 0.2% THC on industrial cannabis (hemp).
Extract from Cannabis for Private Purposes Bill [B 19—2020]
‘‘hemp’’ means a plant of the genus Cannabis which—
(a) has a concentration of THC in the leaves and flowering heads that does not exceed the percentage as may be prescribed in terms of; and
(b) is cultivated under authority of, a law that regulates its cultivation;
It was suggested in the committee sitting on the 7th September 2020 by Mr Robertson that the percentage of 0.2% THC was based on international norms. According to my research, the international norm is 0.3% THC in most and 0.2% in select countries. This was an arbitrary line drawn in the sand to protect the hemp industry and there are very far reaching implications to this low threshold of either 0.2% or 0.3% THC.
“A dividing line of 0.3% (dry weight content in the inflorescence or young infructescence) was established by Small et al. (1976) based on study of variation in several hundred populations and subsequently was adopted in the European Community, Canada, parts of Australia, and the U.S.S.R. as a criterion between cultivars that can be legally cultivated under license and forms that are considered to have too high a drug potential (in some countries, the allowable level is currently different).” - pg 208 Cannabis: A complete Guide
To assure our crop THC levels remain below the presently stipulated 0.2% THC our farmers will have to import seeds that are genetically modified. Our rural subsistence farmers do not have access to this seed which is only obtainable at exorbitant prices. Why should this be required when there is (and always has been) a vast supply of unregulated seeds throughout our nation which can and should be made use of.
The Southern African sun (among others) raises the THC percentage in the cannabis plant throughout its growth cycle with most THC rising in the last month of growth. Invariably we will see our crops rise to above 0.2% bringing about a ‘hot’ crop warranting destruction (or even arrest in terms of the Bill).
We see nations like Switzerland already allowing up to 1% THC in their hemp cultivation and can learn from them. To understand the effects of THC we must understand psycho activity which can be medically needed when treating neurological seizures.
“Etymologically, “psychoac-tive” should mean “psychologically active,” i.e., significantly affecting mental status, which could include any of mood, emotion, perception, and cognition. In the context of discussing cannabis, a tradition has developed of employing “psychoactive” to refer exclusively to the euphoria (the “high” or intoxicant state) produced by marijuana, while ignoring other significant induced mental states, most particularly sedation, but also such other effects as anxiety (reduction or increase)” - pg 204 Cannabis: A Complete Guide
Please note that when growing, the natural THC levels can reach up to 25% and this can be later extracted/refined to 99.9% THC. To understand the potency of THC on any given person - and why this should not be governed in the grow stages - we need to understand the entourage effect. The entourage effect is the psychoactive result of the complimentary cannabinoids increasing the bioavailability of each and bringing about a unique psychoactive experience. When some are ‘too high’, they can soften their high with CBD. It is apparent that we have a lot to learn about this plant and this will unlock further opportunities from this plant.
The 0.2% limit may not pass constitutional muster in that too many citizens will be unfairly discriminated against in not having access to the hemp industry.
I would urge the Honourable Members to revisit this 0.2% threshold in view of the above and consider allowing up to 3% or 5% THC as the ceiling threshold for hemp. This low percentage keeps aside (but does not eliminate) the occurrence of the THC psycho activity.
Criminal to social
The recent LM court case showcases the point that needs to be driven home: cannabis misuse is a social matter not a criminal matter pending punitive measures that leave the offender worse off from correctional facilities than before. It has been proposed that each house can grow 6 or 12 plants if two or more adults. If one grows 13 plants you get jailed/fined. From a policing perspective this is allocating staff to go count plants. We need the police to combat high levels of serious crimes, such as Gender Based Violence. The same goes for the 1200g’s of dried cannabis allowed at home - in my view the punishment is disproportionate to the crime.
Portugal is leading the way in treating drug (mis)use as a social issue not a criminal issue. Given that our law enforcement agencies have far more pressing criminal matters to deal with, it is suggested that all non-dealer offenders not be dealt with through the formal criminal justice system but rather our social justice systems. There is a lot more to be mentioned on this but for brevity I proceed. In this regard I would like to refer you to the social drug offender programs
What exactly would be deemed misuse or abuse? What a question!? Our policies need to be extensive and thorough yet organic and evolving as this plant takes root.
- No smoking and driving until we can better find a way to objectively test sobriety when driving after smoking/eating.
- We need to protect the mind of our youth’s from potential harm by limiting the levels of THC that youth may purchase keeping it low-THC (3% - 7%THC) baring in mind this commercial reality in the wide realm of low-THC smokers who prefer a more calm less psychoactive experience. The developing mind should not be tainted by premature exposure to high THC (10% - 25%THC), and regulating from store front will allow us to limit accessibility of high-THC to 18 - 21 year olds.
- Smoking 99.9% THC (extract) could be deemed ‘drug abuse’ however there could be exceptional cases where this could be medically necessary.
- Pave the way for extensive research and development and reap the rewards as a nation willing to invest in a tangible solution to our socio-economic hurdles. Support the farming of this plant in broad scope (industrially, medically, recreationally, commercially etc) and ensure the roll out is inclusive.
Once we approach the abuse of cannabis from a social as opposed to a criminal perspective, we address the broader aspect of drug abuse in our communities, where many people make use of cannabis mixed with other drugs like mandrax. This results in the scourge of drug abuse in our communities
I conclude in excited anticipation of a South Africa that can boast our world class cannabis in all its beneficial branches. Submission made in my personal capacity as a concerned citizen and stakeholder in private cannabis business, cannabis legal development and lobbying, hempcrete music studio owner, and conductor of nationwide hemp research trials testing climate feasibility of our varied regions from Western Cape to Limpopo.
I would like the opportunity to make an oral presentation should the committee deem fit.
May our Creator, Yeshua guide us all through this and may His will prevail.