The Constitutional Court ruled in September that an individual could grow and use cannabis in their space. AP
The Constitutional Court ruled in September that an individual could grow and use cannabis in their space. AP

Cannabis remains illegal, stop misleading people

By Peter Ucko Time of article published Jul 7, 2019

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The cannabis debate is simple, really. Whatever one calls it - marijuana, dagga, ganga, weed or boom - the debate is simple.

The Constitutional Court ruled in September 18, 2018, in support of the Western Cape High Court judgment, that certain sections of the Drugs and Drug Trafficking Act 140 of 1992 and the Medicines and Related Substances Control Act 101 of 1965 were constitutionally invalid.

Cannabis remains an illegal substance, in terms of the Acts.

The misunderstanding of the ruling and the consequences of misleading statements are dangerous to public health - especially to our youth.

Cannabis and extracts for medical use need to be better controlled and made more easily available.

The 74 page ruling of the Concourt did not legalise cannabis. This is a lie promoted by many users of cannabis and perpetuated erroneously by both citizens and many people in the media. The ruling will have the effect of decriminalising the possession and personal use of cannabis in a private space by adults, not the youth.

The crux of the matter is individual privacy. That has to be given effect by the government by amending the Acts within two years of the ruling.

Technically, until that is done, the possession and use of cannabis remains illegal. However, in recognition that changes must occur, the SAPS, the National Prosecuting Authority and the SA Health Products Regulating Authority (SAHPRA - formerly Medicines Control Council) have issued guidelines to be followed in the interim.

People in possession of small quantities of cannabis are unlikely to be arrested and all current cases before the courts will not proceed until the Act has been amended.

The changes should include inter alia how much you may possess, how many plants and what size you may cultivate, and what constitutes your private place for cultivation.

Several government departments, headed by the Department of Justice, are hard at work drafting the amendments for presentation to Cabinet.

The cultivation, selling and dealing remains a criminal offence.

The grave danger exists that many people, especially the youth, interpret the ruling of the Concourt as suggesting that cannabis is safe, acceptable and already legal to use.

There are reports that as a result, many more youth are experimenting with cannabis. Many might, sadly, become habitual users and worse, move on to other more dangerous addictive substances.

The use of cannabis, especially smoking, can cause many diseases and harms. Students who use cannabis tend to score lower marks at school.

It causes temporary hallucinations and increased heart rate with the concomitant risk of a heart attack.

There is motor impairment which is a risk when driving or operating equipment. Calling cannabis a safe and natural product like a herb in order to make it sound harmless and even useful, is disingenuous. It is tantamount to calling a lion or a leopard a cat, suggesting they are safe.

Cannabis is not parsley, sage, rosemary or thyme. Because cannabis contains delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) which is a mind altering drug, it is classified as a dependence causing drug. This is attested to by people saying that they get high or feel mellow.

Smoking cannabis can lead to lung cancer and can precipitate or aggravate schizophrenia and paranoia.

Using cannabis is a choice. Choose the harms and intoxication caused with almost zero benefits - or choose a healthier life.

There are unquestionably some medical uses for the plant. We must leverage those benefits while minimising use and abuse.

Medical-grade cannabis and extracts can reduce nausea, increased appetite (when medically warranted), treat pain and reduce inflammation.

The truth is that medical cannabis is already available through import which was a time-consuming and arduous process already simplified by SAHPRA. They have made it more easily accessible.

My colleague, David Bayer, is an expert in medication. He is clear that the quality, purity, safety and efficacy of medication must be assured.

* Ucko is the CEO of Tobacco Alcohol and Gambling (TAG) Advisory Advocacy and Action Group.

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

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