Pubdate: Wed, 20 Apr 2016
Source: Witness, The (South Africa)
Copyright: 2016 The Witness.
Author: Byron Burnard
Byron ' Angil' Burnard is an activist with the KZN Cannabis Coalition 
and a member of the Dagga Party of S A.


THE United Nations is ho sting a special three day session on the 
global drug problem that ends tomorrow, and cannabis users around the 
world are hoping their favourite plant will finally be rescheduled as 
a controlled substance.

Are scheduling would make it easier for researchers to study the 
plant and for doctors to prescribe it as a medicine. This includes 
KwaZulu Natal, where the excellent quality of cannabis cultivated in 
the ideal climate of places such as the Midlands and Zulu land can be 
given to people who suffer from painful diseases, such as cancer and 
lupus, or to help the many police officers suffering from post 
traumatic stress disorder.

Apart from these diseases, cannabis also offers proven health 
benefits for over 700 afflictions, relieving pain and lessening 
symptoms of conditions ranging from autism to menstrual cramps and 
glaucoma. And of course, anecdotal claims of healing by the plant 
areas old as humanity itself.

Before the late IFP MP Dr Mario Oriani Ambriosini die do flung cancer 
in August he pleaded with Parliament to make these benefits available 
to all South Africans by legalising at least the medicinal use of 
cannabis. Twenty months later, the Medical Innovations Bill he 
proposed is all but forgotten and South Africa still has the farcical 
situation where police arrest people for possessing high protein 
cannabis seeds, which Nature' s Choice legally sells to over 550 
health shops in southern Africa, including the DisChem Pharmacy in 
the Midlands Mall.

William Shakespeare, who probably smoked cannabis too, according to a 
2015 analysis of fragments of the Bard's pipes by South African 
anthropologist Francis Thakaray, would have seen the funny side.

The sad irony is, if Ambriosini had smoked dagga instead of 
cigarettes, he would have had a slightly reduced risk of contracting 
cancer despite inhaling carcinogenic smoke, according to at least one 
study. For illegal cannabis is benign to the human system, as opposed 
to legal nicotine, which is a deadly toxin. In fact, all of the hemp 
plant is good for the human body, from the warmth provided by the 
soft cloth made from its very long fibres; to all the nutrition 
crammed into the seeds; to the therapeutic effects that its delta 9 
tetrahydrocannabinol has on the nervous system; to the archival 
quality of the paper made from then on yellowing fibres; and the 
production of organic bio fuel and biodegradable plastics from the 
leaves. These societal benefits are ignored in the pseudo war police 
forces around the world wage on the small percentage of people who 
smoke the plant. Yet in terms of the latest trends, their arrest snow 
fall in a legal area as grey as the smoke their victimised users exhale.

For in the U.S ., Ambriosini's last wish has been realised, with all 
50 states now allowing cannabis for medicinal use. In the European 
Union, several countries have "relegalised" cannabis, making hemp 
growing as legal as it was in the years when all Dutch colonists, 
which included those in New York, Go a and Cape Town, had to grow 
hemp for the Dutch navy by royal decree. As far as can be 
ascertained, this decree has never been cancelled.

In stark contrast to these developments, several organisations in the 
Brics countries are lobbying for stricter legislation. Leader of 
Iqela Lentsango: The Dagga Party of South Africa, Jeremy Act on 
believes it is not necessarily the pharmaceutical giants and 
foresters who fear the fast growing hemp' s abilities, but the 
cannabis growers themselves who are lobbying for tougher anti-cannabis laws.

For if anyone may grow cannabis, the bottom of the lucrative dagga 
market will fall out overnight and street sellers will no longer be 
able to palm off their dubious quality "chronic" at premium prices.

Meanwhile, South African judges in two high courts prefer not to 
think about the outdated laws versus current social issues 
surrounding cannabis. A number of cases challenging the 
constitutionality of prohibiting cannabis have been awaiting a 
verdict for years. In the Western Cape High Court, judges Dennis 
Davis, Nolwazi Boqwana and Ashton Skippers have postponed a trial 
against five accused, awaiting an expert report from the UCT's 
Criminology Department on the status of legalising cannabis. And the 
Pretoria high court has postponed the case against Gauteng's "Dagga 
Couple ", Myrtle Clarke and Joules Stobbs, who were arrested five 
years ago for possession, until September 2016, if all the parties 
are trial ready.

In KwaZulu Natal, this writer is preparing his own high court motions 
after being arrested for eating from a packet of Nature' s Choice 
Hemp Seeds, bought at the DisChem Pharmacy in the Midlands Mall.

These cases will clear the way to grow and use cannabis freely. 
Changing any law however takes years. In the interim, all users can 
but hope that commander sat police stations around South Africa will 
cease filling their arrest quotas by ordering officers to round up 
people who choose to blow smoke rings from a smouldering cannabis 
flower instead of a tobacco leaf.

For times are changing and as Bob Marley sang, "legalise it , don 't 
criticise it".
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MAP posted-by: Jay Bergstrom