Parliament Shows the Public the Middle Finger and Continues to Criminalize Cannabis
In an astounding rejection of public input, the Parliamentary Committee on Justice and Correctional Services has approved a fundamentally-flawed Drug Trafficking Amendment Bill which continues to criminalize cannabis and ignores the latest Constitutional Court ruling regarding cannabis and kids.
30 September 2022 at 13:00:00
The Parliamentary Committee on Justice and Correctional Services has approved the Drugs and Drug Trafficking Amendment Bill of 2022 which continues to criminalize cannabis.
Not one change was made to the Bill after 319 public comments were received, mostly objecting to the continued inclusion of cannabis as a scheduled drug. The Committee’s decision also ignored a Constitutional Court ruling on the same day that found sections of the Act relating to children and cannabis were unconstitutional.
Parliamentary spokesperson, Moloto Mothapo made the astonishing remark on 29 September 2022 that “having considered the public submissions, the Committee was of the view that the issues raised fall outside the scope of the Bill and fall largely within the ambit of the Cannabis for Private Purposes Bill [B19-2020], which was also referred to the Committee for consideration and report. The Committee recommended that the House approve the Bill without amendments."
Mothapo said during the public participation process on the Bill, the Portfolio Committee on Justice and Correctional Services received 319 submissions, most of which took the form of a petition.
This was on the same day that the Constitutional Court upheld a Gauteng High Court ruling that the Drugs and Drug Trafficking Act of 1992 violated the constitutional rights of minors and gave Parliament two years to make the necessary amendments.
In short MP’s from all political parties have united to approve a version of the Drug Trafficking Bill that is unconstitutional, has had no input from the Department of Health and flies in the face of the National Cannabis Master Plan, making a mockery of President Cyril Ramaphosa’s cannabis reform promises.
One Parliamentary source told Cannabiz Africa that MP’s were spooked into supporting a deficient piece of legislation because the alternatives were worse. “It’s easier to fix broken legislation than have a legal void in which there is no legislation that covers drug dealing of any sort”.
Had MP’s not approved the Bill, he said, there was no way it would meet the Constitutional Court deadline of 17 December 2022 to fix the original Drugs and Drug Trafficking Act and this would have horrendous implications for SAPS and the NPA as all prosecutions under the Act would be open to question.
"All this will end up in court" he said, because Government had blown the chance of getting stakeholders on board and the state legal department was a law unto itself.
The inclusion of cannabis as a Schedule 2 drug in the Act is a mystery.
Senior State Law Advisor Sarel Robbertse admitted to Parliament that cannabis had been removed from the proposed amendment during earlier discussions, but had been re-included in order not to change the “status quo”.
What is also astounding is that there has been no input from the Department of Health into what should or should not be included in the list of scheduled substances. ACDP MP Steve Swart raised his concerns as to how inclusive the list was of dangerous substances if the South African Health Regulatory Authority’s (SAHPRA) view was not solicited. He said most MP’s had no idea what the substances were on the Schedules and it was unfair to expect MP’s to pass legislation without expert advice.
Well, that’s exactly what he and his Parliamentary bretheren have done in passing a defective bill onto the National Council of Provinces to pass before it rises at the end of November 2022. The fact that cannabis is included is one issue that all MP’s knew was problematic, but it’s mind-blowing that they have approved a Bill which dictates that every new inclusion into the Schedules of the Drug Trafficking Act will have to be passed by Parliament as a whole.
Think about this. There is an explosion of new mind-altering chemicals coming onto the market that Parliament does not have the expertise to vaguely understand and yet it’s given itself the future authority to pass laws relating to this. Any new drug to be included in future schedules will have to be passed by an act of Parliament and not by any recognized expert.
In short, MP’s across all parties should be hanging their heads in shame at the sheer tackiness of how they’ve conducted themselves in relation to stepping up to Government policy on cannabis reform and accountability to the public at large. The first thing they should be insisting on is that a new state legal architect be drafted to replace Robbertse, who is a relic of the past and a cost to the universe.
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