In this Thursday, June 6, 2019 photo cannabis light plants are displayed at a cannabis light store in Milan, Italy. Interior Minister Matteo Salvini has been an outspoken opponent of the marijuana light businesses that sprouted up around the country after pioneering 2016 legislation that many saw as a step toward eventual marijuana liberalization. (AP Photo/Luca Bruno)
The criminal laws against cannabis have always been immoral in principle and unworkable in practice, in the same way as the apartheid racial, spatial and pass laws.

Sadly, the same irrational thinking that informed the misphilosophy of racial superiority exists in relation to the thinking around cannabis. That thinking was declared a crime against humanity and we should not allow it to dominate the discussion around cannabis.

Cannabis, or dagga, users cannot be treated worse than tobacco or alcohol users. That is the essence of equality. The notion that European preferences are automatically more sophisticated and safer than African ones has been belied by time. Tobacco is the number one cause of preventable death and alcohol a close second.

Together these substances kill 10million people a year worldwide, yet nobody is thinking about criminalising their use. Western allopathic medicine prescribed by doctors and distributed by pharmacists is the fifth-largest cause of preventable death, yet the medical profession is still the most trusted in the world. The indigenous knowledge systems or homoeopath methods need not be discredited or discarded, rather allopathic must co-exist with homoeopath as complementary healing forces.

Human penal laws have never been a match for human ingenuity and the attempt to regulate addictive substances via the criminal penal code has never been successful. In fact, prohibition caused more harm than the substances itself.

Cannabis is not toxic and together with its ability to assist in the cure of many ailments. Its low production cost is what qualifies it as a wonder medicine. Humanity has known of the healing ability of cannabis for years yet suppressed this truth.

One cannot die from too much cannabis - yet easily available painkilling tablets can cause death. Medical science has proof that cannabis can cure cancer if detected early enough and we have proof of cannabis even reversing stage 4 cancers. In a country ravaged by disease it is criminal to withhold medicine from our people.

Cannabis will prove to be the economic compass of our society - the cannabis industry was just named as the number one job creator in the US.

Cannabis is a gateway to self-reliance. The potential of the plant together with the input of millions of unemployed youth can catapult South Africa into economic stability.

It is already a multi-billion pound, dollar and euro industry, and the fact that we still incarcerate citizens for using and growing it, is downright wicked.

This is a labour-intensive industry and a central part of any green economy. We are, however, benching our star player and are still buying into the illusion of foreign voices and advice.

We have the land, we have the people to work the land, we have an excellent climate, yet our government is procrastinating.

We can empower our people in so many ways, yet our government is reluctant. Our product is sought-after all over the world, yet at present, it is only gangsters and corrupt politicians who enjoy the benefit.

Cannabis is the solution to substance abuse. It is thus much more of an exit drug as opposed to a gateway. Modern-day science tells us that methamphetamine or nyaope addiction can be redressed with cannabis. Alcohol addiction can be redressed with cannabis.

The problem of substance abuse is, however, minor in comparison with what legal drugs or poverty do. Sugar and carbon monoxide kill more people yearly than illegal drugs, yet nobody in their right mind would dream of outlawing sugar and petrol.

This country needs cannabis now more then ever. We cannot allow the cannabis conversation to be dominated by foreign voices. Indigenous knowledge systems are not to be looked down on. Let us drink water from our own streams before we lose our roots.

* Prince holds a B Iuris LLB Dip Legal Practice. He is the chairperson of the newly formed Cannabis Development Council of South Africa. He describes himself as the country’s pioneer cannabis warrior who, when injustice was on the statute books, resisted and embarked on a 20-year journey for recognition and accommodation which culminated in victory at the Constitutional Court.

** The views expressed herein are not necessarily those of Independent Media