Hundreds of people attended peaceful pro-cannabis protests at the seats of Government in Pretoria and Cape Town on Saturday 17 September 2022 – and at other key points nationwide. They have called for an immediate halt to cannabis arrests and for government to speed up reform.
“Today we are planting a seed; we are planting the seed of a mass uprising that needs to happen on every single front” Fields of Green for All co-founder Myrtle Clarke told the gathering on the Union Building lawns on Saturday. The protests marked the fourth anniversary of the historic 18 September 2018 Constitutional Court ruling that the private consumption of cannabis was legal. She urged protestors to keep the pressur on Government.
Speaking on behalf of the recently-formed Cannabis Mass Action Committee (CMAC), Trenton Birch said they were “very pleased with the turnout and support”.
Birch, co-founder of Cheeba Africa, told Cannabiz Africa on 19 September 2022 that the CMCA had received a formal reply from Government to its protest memorandum “so at least there was a response and we definitely ruffled some feathers”.
He said an estimated 450 to 500 turned up at the Union Buildings in Pretoria to protest, 250 people attended the gathering at Parliament in Cape Town and a further 300 to 400 people protested at other Government offices nationwide.
“We are very happy with the turnout and national support for Saturday’s mass action gatherings and it was inspiring to see people from so many backgrounds coming together with one united voice. However this is just a start and we must actively continue to encourage government to engage with us to move this industry forward rapidly, we have no time to lose" said Birch.
Birch was one of the many speakers at the Union Buildings, and the diversity of stakeholders was evident in the line-up. Among those who voiced their anger and impatience at Government’s intertia in fulfilling its cannabis promises were Zanele Mazibuko (Traditional Healers Organisation), Linda Siboto (Cheeba Africa, Clarke (FGFA), Kobus Schoeman (Grow One Africa), Tebogo Tihopane (Cannabis Trade Association / Bio Muti), Thapelo Khunou (Marijuana Board of South Africa) and of course, King Khoisan, who’s currently occupying the Union Buildings lawns in protest against the non-recognition of South Africa’s “first people’. The King is facing illegal cultivation and dealing charges after growing cannabis at the seat of the Presidency.
Clarke, said South Africa was tired of waiting for Parliament and the Executive to get its act together. “For four years we’ve been waiting for our privacy to be respected”.
She said it was 12 years since she and her late partner, Julian Stobbs, were arrested on cannabis charges and that was one of the key cases that led to the ConCourt judgement. “I’ve been out on bail for 12 years now and I wouldn’t mind getting my R1 000 back” she said.
Stobbs and Clarke were famously known as the ‘Dagga Couple’ before Stobbs was murdered in 2020 by armed intruders at their home. The case is still on the Pretoria High Court court roll and there is a queue of over 100 “stay of prosecution” cases behind it.
“This year also marks 22 years since Ras Gareth Prince first lit that fire” Clarke told the crowd. “So we musn’t forget those who’ve gone before us. From the early days of marching in Cape Town with the late Mario Ambrosini, Robin Stanton-Ford, Lindsey Martin, the first patient who came out openly to say she was using cannabis to treat her cancer" said Clarke.
“There have been a lot of people who have died along the way, and a lot of people who have suffered immense persecution at the hands of the police. So let’s remember those people who died in the cells. There’s many of them.”
Clarke said FGFA had solutions to the crisis and wanted to “present them to a dagga commission”
A memo drawn up by the CMAC called on an immediate halt to cannabis-related arrests and to urgently change the laws to allow a job-creating, wealth-generating cannabis economy get off the ground.
“The benefits of Cannabis and industrial hemp are now supported by credible evidence across the globe and there is simply no worthy justification as to why the legislative process is taking so long” read the memo.
“We call upon the South African government to move rapidly to remove the barriers from the industry coming online, create robust communication channels between departments so that government departments are aligned in thought and not fragmented, and for decisive action to be taken to bring this industry online with an agreed strategy and committed (now indisputably urgent) timeline.
“There is an urgent need for a moratorium on Cannabis arrests, to free up police and criminal justice resources and open a discourse on reparations for those that have suffered as a result of apartheid laws (that continue to be enforced in the new democratic dispensation) which unjustifiably infringe on numerous constitutional rights - this being especially contentious when one considers the endpoint that government has us believing is on the cards.”