There are two things you cannot give any self-respecting cop. Lip under any circumstance and laws that are unenforceable. Cannabis arrestees are not the only victims in the absence of clear cannabis legislation, says Cosatu, cops are also victims in having to operate with no clear guidelines and huge consequences on their actions. The Union says cannabis legislation affects trade union members in the police, prisons and health services specifically.
Trade Union federation Cosatu supports the main provisions of the controversial Cannabis Bill and has urged Parliament to fix the defects and pass it into law in this sitting of Parliament as regulatory uncertainty is putting police and prison union members in an invidious position.
During the Parliamentary hearings last week on the Cannabis for Private Purposes Bill, MP’s expressed determination to finalize cannabis legislation before the end of the year. Cosatu’s Parliamentary Advisor, Mathew Parks said he thought that was a good idea because the delay in implementing a clear cannabis regulatory framework was also making life unduly uncomfortable for members of POPCRU, the Police and Correctional Services Union.
However, there are fewer than 60 working days left of this, the sixth democratic Parliament, before next year’s elections and that might not be enough time to fix the broken Bill. “We are worried that it won’t be passed this year and that the next parliament will have a lot of work to do in passing supplementary laws.”
Parks, told the Justice and Correctional Services Portfolio Committee that the delay in enacting clear cannabis legislation was putting unionized police members under a lot of pressure. Speaking to MP’s on 23 May 2023, Parks said Cosatu welcomed many of the new amendments to the Bill but was concerned about Government’s contradictory thinking on whether or not it really wanted to legalize the plant.
He said Cosatu supported the urgent passage of the Bill through Parliament “to address the Constitutional Court directive to legalize cannabis and provide a legal framework for the legal cultivation, sale and consumption of cannabis and related products”. But he raised concerns about the spirit of “bureaucratic sullenness” behind the Justice Department’s thinking about cannabis, and practicalities that would make life hell for some Cosatu union members.
Parks said that while the Bill gave cannabis rights to religious and cultural groups, it made it unnecessarily bureaucratic to exercise those rights: “The practicalities don’t make sense, especially about ministerial permissions for religious groups. We are shifting an unfair burden on police officers who will require registry etc, It will create unnecessary conflict and potentially put our police members in a difficult position by having to raid a church, for instance”.
Cosatu supported the clauses relating to commercialization and the expungement of criminal records and supported the no-driving-while under the influence of cannabis provision. Parks said 14 000 people die on the roads every year, and that everything possible needed to be done to reduce this. He said one of Cosatu’s main problems with the Bill was the basic contradiction that the legislation sought to legalize cannabis but at the same time placed severe restrictions in that regard. He said the restrictions on immature plants did not make sense and was concerned that the clause around children’s access to cannabis had been dropped.
Parks said many parts of the Bill were unenforceable, a point Cullinan and Associates lawyer Paul Michael Keichel picked up on:
How do we enforce this against the rural Amapondo who want to grow adult use cannabis and then use the stalks to make hempcrete to builds their private residences?
Are we going to force those rural Amapondo to switch their land race cannabis for imported hemp cultivars if they want to dabble in the commercial hemp space. And what are we going to do about the issue of cross pollination?
Will the rural Amapondo have to destroy their hemp crop and be branded as criminals because of cross pollination from high THC adult use growers a valley or two away across the mountains.
There’s also the problem of hemp. As Brenda Ferreira of Qure Laboratories pointed out to MP’s during her presentation, cannabis and hemp are the same plant with differing THC levels. She said because of THC spikes in southern Africa, many farmers would only find out whether they’d grown cannabis or hemp post-harvest after sending samples for lab testing. How are police going to tell the difference between hemp and cannabis?
The Portfolio Committee is due to hear feedback from the Department of Justice on Friday, 2 June 2023 on stakeholder input on the Bill.