Stop arresting and prosecuting people, a delegate to a cannabis workshop advises government

By Michael Keichel

Thank you for today’s presentation and for the (over-all) positive strides that you have made. It was uplifting, because it showed that someone was listening! 😊

There not having been much room for engagement (too many participants/voices) I’ve elected to allow others to make verbal representations and to satisfy myself with some written submissions. Please provide feedback and insight on the following, so that we may constructively engage further (we were told to email you): 

  1. If we are moving in this direction, why not an emergency executive order (now) to the SAPS and the NPA to stop arresting and prosecuting people for petty cannabis crimes (this being “the new policy”which you say that you need)? 
  2. You spoke of consulting with “industry”. Who? Small farmers and sole proprietors (the people who need this most)? What about civil society organisations? When will there be a lekgotla that includes all of us?
  3. You spoke of protecting ‘the small guys’ from monopolies by ‘the big guys’? Have you considered a cooperative model (like Zimbabwean tobacco)? Self-regulated hubs, accountable to the (hopefully reasonable and rational) law?
  4. Amendments to the Drugs and Drugs Trafficking Act? Indeed wholly necessary, but why not abandon trying to regulate the component parts of the plant and only regulate the uses to which the plant may and may not be put? Then, you can dispense with (unviable) testing for and policing of things like the levels of cannabinoids in raw material. It will never work. You (government) must always make sure to not do more harm through your laws than the harms that you think you’re preventing (s36 of the Constitution).
  5. On this note, what harms are you preventing by keeping the (taxable) trade in “craft” cannabis illegal? Are these harms not outweighed by dragging your citizens through the criminal justice system?
  6. Don’t “zone” areas for cannabis, with respect. Unpoliceable and unviable. Let the people grow feely and earn a living from what they’re able to produce. What harm would you be you preventing by proposing zones? It’s unnecessarily complicated. 
  7. You talk about us never having had the capacity to manufacture off the back of what’s been an illegal resource. Why not leave this to entrepreneurs? This doesn’t have to be ringfenced to government. Let industry drive innovation.      
  8. Given the positive steps that you’ve taken here, why must we be made to sue government for reform in respect of things like psilocybin (“magic mushrooms”)? Why not a drug policy lekgotla, so that we can change our laws, once and for all, to enable human rights and scientific thinking, prevent harms, and allow for innovation and the advancement of our democratic society? We propose to stop (further) harming drug (ab)users. Help them, instead. I refer to your National Drug Master Plan, which anticipates this …
  9. Now that we are allowed to cultivate and consume in our own, private spaces, what (additional) harm is prevented by criminally prohibiting people from being able to purchase and sell that cannabis from/as authorised dealers (thereby ensuring quality control and harm mitigation)?
  10. Why are you proposing to put limits on the number of plants that people can grow and use in private (e.g. the Bill)? What do you mean by “use”? What if I want to grow a cannabis hedge, or for cattle fodder, or to build an outbuilding from hempcrete? For that matter, if I want to smoke my plants, what harm is prevented from limiting me to 4 plants, which would have arisen if I’d been allowed 10, or unlimited?
  11. How much scope is there for change to this Master Plan? You talk about wanting guidance as to how to implement it, but is it cast in stone? Here, I’m asking practically. Will there be more invitations for meetings and comments, such as these? Thank you for your time and consideration.

.This is a letter that Schindler’s Keichel submitted to the Department of Agriculture, Land Reform and Rural Development (DARDD), posted during the 30 March 2021, NCMP workshop at the end of the workshop.:

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