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What a Mess! Cannabis Stakeholders Expose Dreadful Shortcomings in Government Understanding of Cannabis in Scrappy Parliamentary Session

What a Mess! Cannabis Stakeholders Expose Dreadful Shortcomings in Government Understanding of Cannabis in Scrappy Parliamentary Session

Brett Hilton Barber

24 May 2022, 22:00:00

The chairman of the Committee was accused of putting Parliament before the people of South Africa

The Cannabis for Private Purposes Bill is on a constitutional freefall and state law advisors have been given a week to try and fix the problem.

This emerged from a scrappy session of Parliament’s Justice and Correctional Services Portfolio Committee on 24 May 2022, during which:

  • The chairman of the Committee was accused of putting Parliament before the people of South Africa and being a puppet of white monopoly capital;

  • The Committee was roundly criticized for breaking its own rules regarding parliamentary procedure in that stakeholders were given too little notice for providing final public input;

  • The Committee was accused of ignoring vital input and being completely shoddy in responding to important inputs that were made in previous public submission sessions;

  • The Bill was proved to be constitutionally and morally unsound and probably the scrappiest piece of legislation ever tabled in Parliament;

  • It emerged that the legal risks are ramping up: if the Bill becomes an Act, stakeholders warned that it’s incubation would be in the courts of law and that there was an increasing and real danger that as a result South Africa would have no guiding cannabis legislation for years to come;

  • The Department of Justice was exposed as a major obstacle to cannabis reform and completely at odds with the Department of Trade, Industry and Competition;

  • Worse still, the Department of Justice, intends to continue criminalizing cannabis, suggesting prison terms for people who grow too many plants at home;

  • It brutally surfaced that contradictions between Government’s intentions to commercialize cannabis were completely at odds with the Bill it wants enacted into law and legislators have been publicly embarrassed by their own inability to come up with a cohesive cannabis policy;

  • It’s become apparent that, conceptually, the Government is currently clueless as to what the plant and its potential actually hold, and have made no effort to come to an evidence-based policy that can work in its favour – it’s now relying almost entirely on non-government legal minds to save it from its self-created quagmire;

  • Many stakeholders pointed out that if Government wanted to regulate cannabis like alcohol and tobacco, it had failed dismally in its attempts – there are no limits on how many bottles of whiskey one may possess or how many cigarettes one may smoke;

  • Government’s attempts to appease the Rastafarian community unfairly discriminated against traditional cannabis growers and healers.

The Committee instructed state law advisor Sarel Robbertse to report back next Tuesday, 31 May 2022 with an amended version of the Bill

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