Charl Henning, Fields of Green for All
Charl Henning argues that until the Government gets its "Dagga Ducks" in a row, the fledgling cannabis industry is doomed to fail. Here he outlines 10 crisis points that need to be urgently addressed in South Africa is to realize the inclusive, economic benefits of cannabis.
This report first published on Fields of Green for All on 13 February 2023.
In 2011, when we started Fields of Green for ALL, it was not clear what we had to do. Our main goal was to accumalate evidence for the Trial Of The Plant, but it took many years (and the part heard trial) for us to get clarity on what needs to be done. A clear picture of our desired outcomes is our Manifesto which has been largely ignored by the Portfolio Commitee on Justice and Correctional Services, currently drafting the Cannabis for Private Purposes Bill.
While we have seen a bit of progress on a provincial level, as well as at community level (Dagga Private Clubs), The 1992 Drugs and Drug Trafficking act, still prohibits Cannabis, completely. The vacuum that exists in addressing the crisis in Cannabis legalisation is getting bigger and worse. This is a natural evolution of the state of things when there are no laws and regulations. We would like to highlight our ten Crisis Points here once again for everyone to understand which issues need to be addressed.
Each of these ten Crisis Points would need a day for the government to hear the evidence. They can bring their experts and we’ll bring ours. Or we’ll see them in court.
CRISIS POINT 1: Legislative Vacuum:
Where is the evidence for the Cannabis for Private Purposes Bill and the National Cannabis Masterplan?
The Bill and the Masterplan conflict with each other. This is a clear sign that our government does not have it’s Dagga ducks in a row. Regulations and the law has to be based on evidence and science, otherwise it is rendered nefarious. There is no scientific evidence that concludes that Dagga has to be regulated as if it is something dangerous. The science around Dagga would be easy to prove in a court of law, as we indeed tried to do with The Trial of The Plant, but the trial was filibusted and it is yet to be completed! The evidence for Dagga has NEVER been heard in a court of law, and when that happens it will be the final moment of TRUTH over prohibition which is solely based on LIES.
Our Manifesto at Fields of Green for All has clear evidence based regulations laid out for lawmakers to adopt, if only they would leave dogma and superstition at the door and embrace science and the truth.
CRISIS POINT 2: The Law
Arrests, incarceration, criminal records, divorce and custody issues, testing at work and at school.
Cannabis users still live in a police state in South Africa, and the police arrest for any and all Cannabis detected. We have not seen a single expungement for a criminal record for Dagga coming from the state, bad romance still leads to snitching and exes keep children from each other because of Cannabis use, which is safer than cigarettes.
Employers still use Cannabis tests that don’t prove impairment against employees as a tool of prejudice and selfish control. Our lack of Dagga regulation is benefitting everybody for nefarious reasons and nobody for the right reasons. It’s a sad mess and we will not stop fighting for fair regulations until these issues are addressed in law, not in hemp permits and webinars about webinars.
CRISIS POINT 3. Limits
An insidious prohibitionist practice if there ever was one. Setting limits on plants you can grow is just evil and has ZERO scientific backing. Cannabis is a safe healing plant and does not require measures that pretend that it is dangerous. FEAR and perceived harms by uneducated lawmakers lead to such misguided notions and dogmatic malpractices as we can see in the disastrous mess that is the National Cannabis Masterplan and the contradicting bill that goes with it.
Plant counting and licences are both unfair restrictive measures that are not backed by any rhyme or reason, they are merely tools of over-regulation and control, and will after all not work in South Africa. It’s a mere pipe dream of prohibition with no evidence to support it. There is NOTHING private about the South African Police Gangsters entering your house to count your plants. In fact it is unconstitutional, COMPLETELY POINTLESS, and will not hold up in a court of law. Myrtle and Paul-Michael explained this point here.
CRISIS POINT 4 – Licences and the Dagga Dompas
In the same way that licences drive a deep wedge in our already disproportionately privileged society, the medical Cannabis card, or Dagga Dompas relies on the idea that you need permission to use dagga as medicine, and a card to protect you from corrupt police. This prohibitionist system is not evidence based and still enforces Dagga apartheid onto what is a safe healing plant.
The compromise required from the authorities (government and law enforcement) is to let go and allow a reasonable degree of self-regulation in the fledgling legal Cannabis industry in South Africa. The existing, largely unregulated Cannabis industry is ready and willing to compromise its complete autonomy under prohibition for a regulated industry that allows for best practice and customer safety without undue barriers to entry.
“We are good at what we do and we will continue as before if you overregulate us or create regulations that only suit the rich. Good people disobey bad laws.” – Anonymous Underground Dagga Trader.
The process of licensing producers and traders of Cannabis (outside of a registered medicine) is not appropriate in South Africa because cultivation, production and trade has many facets within the existing Cannabis industry. A system of business registration (where applicable) and affiliation to a hub must be open to any willing market participant. Business registration serves the requirements of legal regulation and can fit into existing regulatory protocols. Registration criteria specific to the Cannabis industry must be developed and enforced through the office of the Cannabis OmBUDsman in conjunction with the Hubs.
Affiliation to Hubs can serve as de facto licences for those who do not have business registration. This is a simple and accessible way for all South Africans – including thousands of previously disadvantaged citizens – to have real opportunities to enter the formal economy. The combination of registered businesses and Kasinomics operators within a single Hub will also contribute to broadening the knowledge base of those previously disadvantaged.
Licensing of non-medical cultivators, manufacturers and traders is wide open to corruption. A licensing system is regarded as a fait accompli by many South Africans. The many grey areas, rumours in the media of licences and permits being handed out, and the nefarious nature of criminal activity related to “drugs” ALL point to the inevitable failure of this top-down approach.
CRISIS POINT 5: Ignorance
Ignorance of history and the experience of other developing countries in the global south.
There are 22 South African Government Departments affected by Cannabis legalisation. How many of our “leaders” know the history of The Last Apartheid Law?
We started dealing with this issue in our very first short movie, Dagga: The Truth, made in 2013. We fought for the relevance of our history expert in The Trial of the Plant and we still feel that the history of the persecution of South Africans because of Dagga remains largely unknown by those who are tasked with changing the law.
After hundreds of years of use on the mountains and in the valleys and settlements of Southern Africa, South Africa has the dubious reputation of being the first country where one population group imposed the prohibition of Cannabis on another population group. The British Army settlers of the late 19th century disliked their Hindu labourers using bhang as a sacrament in the sugar cane fields of their Natal Colony. Colonial observations concluded ‘it renders the Indian immigrant unfit and unable to perform, with satisfaction to the employer, that work for which he was specially brought to this colony’.
CRISIS POINT 6: Misleading Hype
Overselling economic benefits while legislating for the criminalisation of the existing market.
We don’t call the Drugs and Drug Trafficking Act of 1992 the last apartheid law for nothing. Already rich licensed farmers can grow and export, and the media will stand in line to help them boast about their success in our faces. More and more, we see these glistening stories in the news and on social media, right next to the bust reports. Conflicting messages sent out by a well oiled media machine to the poor folks already confused by the lack of coherent regulations.
Have any license holders ever contributed a cent to the legalisation struggle, or even paused to think about how corrupt their game is in the face of ongoing oppression and exclusion of the unregulated Legacy Cannabis community?
Lawmakers need to formulate evidence based regulations, and to do this they need to be educated first and study Cannabis 101! The SAPS need to be officially instructed BY GOVERNMENT to STOP ARRESTING US.
CRISIS POINT 7: Communications Vacuum
The industry speaking in a vacuum.
Fields of Green for All have recommended in our Manifesto a central Cannabis office with an omBUDsman to regulate our industry. This office can consist of representatives from various government departments that can all vote and shape our regulations so that everybody is on the same page.
What we have at the moment is very clear. Most of the initiative for the Dagga industry is coming from local government, but there is also no broader communication or cohesive national decision making. The result is that Limpopo, Gauteng, Western Cape, Eastern Cape among others all proclaimed to be the centre of our ‘future legal industry’. Various government departments that are getting involved in Cannabis are constantly conflicting each other with regulations.
Let us not forget that on the one hand our government is issuing Cannabis permits and on the other hand it is also still locking it’s citizens up in cages every day for possession, cultivation and dealing of the plant. It seems very conflicted on the way forward.
Even the revolting Cannabis for Private Purposes bill conflicts with the disastrously concocted National Cannabis Masterplan. It is time for our stakeholders to meet and greet around the same table and decide on our future together, as a community and as a country.
CRISIS POINT 8: Hemp
Where is the last 20 years of Research from the permits?
THC levels per definition are set impractically high, seeds are still illegal to buy, and what about cross pollination? Africa has zero history of cultivating hemp and hemp planted in the wrong location can destroy our valuable landrace heritage. We have to proceed very carefully if we grow hemp at all, and this far, looking at the comedy of errors that are our hemp permit system, our government has not acted in any way that gives potential growers any faith in authority at all. Regulations just reflect luke warm intentions informed by gross ignorance, nothing else.
CRISIS POINT 9. Cannabis issues as political suicide.
Who are WE going to vote for? No political party in our country has bothered to use this hot topic successfully as leverage, even though Cannabis seems to have massive support everywhere you look. For how long will Dagga be ignored at political level? It’s a broom that can sweep up big support at the voting stations, and parties that ignore the issue simply lose out on support from a giant section of society.
CRISIS POINT 10. Drug education for Children and Youth
Start telling the truth.
The youth of today are more equipped than ever before. In fact, as Julian Stobbs used to say: “anybody with a phone with internet access has the key to the sum of all knowledge in their pockets”. Teenagers experiment with Dagga and it does not take them long to figure out what is true and what is not when it comes to the information out there.
Factually flawed posters in courts, hospitals and schools that group Dagga with dangerous street drugs and warn of addiction, rehab and other lies need to be revised and replaced. Just like we have no faith in our government because they enforce bad laws on us, teaching learners the wrong facts (when they can easily find out the truth on their cellphones) only breaks their faith in authority in general when it comes to everything else.
We have had enough of being judged as unethical and immoral as this quote from the South African Cannabis Masterplan explains the dogmatic and fanatic attitude from the powers that be towards the thriving unregulated market:
“… the illicit market – fuelling a crime-prone underbelly and networks of individuals operating outside the realm of ethical and moral behaviour.”
The South African Cannabis Masterplan, v5 (pg4), August 2021
In September 2021 the Cannabis Trade Association Africa (CTAA), together with Cheeba Africa, Craft Cannabis TV and Cape Town TV, hosted a webinar / live DSTV broadcast to address the crisis we are all facing. Now, a year and 4 months later since we published our first blog on the 10 Crisis Points, nothing has changed! Thank you to the hosts for the opportunity to present our solutions to this crisis. We certainly hope that the South African Police will be invited to the table next time. Can we also suggest that the government pay for the venue and catering at The South African Dagga Commission? Payback for keeping us waiting in the dark for so long. In September 2022, a year after the webinar, we anounced the Trial Of The Plant II.
About Charl Henning.
I have worked at Fields of Green For All and Stop The Cops since 2014. Apart from day to day admin I also man our helpline and support victims of arrest.