Dagga activists say the provincial department of Transport and Public Works is blowing smoke, after it said it was looking into a new saliva test. Picture: NQOBILE MBONAMBI/African News Agency (ANA) Archives
Cape Town - Dagga activists say the provincial department of Transport and Public Works is blowing smoke, after it said it was looking into a new saliva test that could change the way employers and police enforce cannabis laws.

The device would enable traffic officers or employers to detect dagga in a person’s system by testing their saliva. The test could indicate whether a person had smoked or ingested dagga in the previous three hours.

Ntomboxolo Makoba-Somdaka, spokesperson to MEC of Transport and Public Works Bonginkosi Madikizela, said: “The department has heard about this technology and we understand it’s still in its development phase. The technology has not been finalised. We are however monitoring the space, and when settled, we’ll look at getting it approved in South Africa.”

The tests entering the market include a device that looks like a lollipop and has a sponge head. The person apparently takes the device so that it can absorb their saliva, which is then placed in chemicals. A few minutes later, the test reveals if the person has smoked dagga.

Until now, there has been no widely available test to tell if a person is under the influence of dagga. The urine test widely used can only indicate whether the person has taken dagga any time within the past month - not whether they are currently under the influence.

Last year the Constitutional Court decriminalised the use and cultivation of cannabis in a private space. Since this ruling, law enforcement agencies and employers have been seeking new and more accurate ways of testing - similar to a breathalyser at a roadblock.

Dagga advocacy groups said the proposed test was a pipe dream. Jules Stobbs of the “Dagga Couple” who fought for the legalisation of dagga use, said the new test wouldn’t work.

“A saliva test is still a pipe dream for authorities worldwide. There’s still no effective way of proving cannabis impairment and serious government money is being spent globally to develop the weed test holy grail. It’s just another way governments are intent on keeping cannabis users criminalised,” Stobbs said.

Jeremy Acton of the Dagga Party vowed to fight the implementation of the test.

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Cape Argus