South Africa could be a global leader in the cannabis sector but the Cannabis for Private Purposes Bill is woefully lacking in proper research, write the University of Pretoria’s Maryke Steynvaart and Dr Marc Wegerif, with Rhodes University’s Professor Peter Vale, in Daily Maverick.
They write that the Bill ‘seems to move against global trends as it ignores any commercial opportunities for cannabis, never mind that it also fails to accommodate its medicinal uses’. They argue it is unreasonably punitive in the sanctions for those who exceed the quantities of cannabis allowed for private use; it perpetuates forms of discrimination against poorer people by limiting cannabis production and use by those who don’t own private land and live in larger households; and it will probably cause infringements of citizens’ rights to privacy, because enforcing the Bill will require plant counting and other monitoring in people’s homes.
The authors argue that the larger underlying problem is that the Bill was not drafted based on research. ‘It is not based on any evidence-based calculation of the relative harms of infringing freedoms of what we do in private, versus the potential harms of cannabis production and use. It does not show an understanding of the established production, distribution and use of cannabis.’ They add that it also ignores the potential of an industry that will contribute to new medicines, a free enjoyment of people’s spiritual and cultural life, job creation in agriculture and processing, economic growth and much-needed revenue.
Serious rethinking on the Bill is needed. ‘This would do well to start by embracing the potential of the sector, building on the existing production of hundreds of thousands of small-scale, mostly black, farmers and involving a wide range of stakeholders, especially existing producers and users.’ They add that academic and scientific research on the existing production, trade and control networks, as well as the opportunities and risks of cannabis, is crucial for informing the development of effective policies and legislation.
‘Research, combined with the valuable seed varieties and other assets we have, could make SA a global leader in the cannabis sector. Unfortunately, the narrow nature of the Bill could be a further constraint on such research.’
‘Such a comprehensive approach may take time, but is needed if cannabis is to benefit the country and its people. We cannot afford to take the narrow and short-sighted approach reflected in the Bill,’ they write.
Full Daily Maverick analysis
Full Cannabis for Private Purposes Bill
Other MedicalBrief archival material on the Cannabis for Private Purposes Bill