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Cannabis Bill comes under heavy criticism

In this April 12, 2018, photo, a marijuana plant awaits transplanting at the Hollingsworth Cannabis Company near Shelton, Wash. (AP Photo/Ted S. Warren)

In this April 12, 2018, photo, a marijuana plant awaits transplanting at the Hollingsworth Cannabis Company near Shelton, Wash. (AP Photo/Ted S. Warren)

Published May 24, 2022

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JOHANNESBURG – Calls have grown for the revision of the Cannabis for Private Purposes Bill so that it becomes clearer on laws that will guide commercialisation and farming of dagga.

Provinces such as Gauteng were steaming ahead with plans to tap into the commercialisation of cannabis to create new job opportunities.

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The national strategy for the industrialisation and commercialisation published in 2021 estimated that the industry was worth R28 billion.

In his State of the Nation Address in February, President Cyril Ramaphosa said the hemp and cannabis sector has the potential to create over 130 000 new jobs.

“We are, therefore, streamlining the regulatory processes so the hemp and cannabis sector can thrive like it is in other countries such as Lesotho,” he said. “Our people in the Eastern Cape, KwaZulu-Natal and elsewhere are ready to farm with this age-old commodity and bring it to market.”

But the new piece of legislation intended to legalise cannabis in the country has come under heavy criticism for being unclear on farming and commercialisation laws.

The Cannabis for Private Purposes Bill resulted from a 2018 Constitutional Court ruling that decriminalised dagga for private use and cultivation in private spaces.

Cosatu, in a submission made to the Portfolio Committee on Justice and Correctional Services yesterday, said it was concerned that the Bill was contradictory and not clear on where the government stands on commercialisation.

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The federation said while it understood that the government was developing an industrial master plan for cannabis commercialisation, the Bill left it wondering whether the government supports the development of this industry or not.

“If it does, then the legal framework needs to be clear. If it does not, then equally, this must be made clear. The Bill, as it is drafted now, does not make this clear,” said Cosatu.

“It indicates clearly how cannabis can be produced for personal use. It is clear on how it can be used for medical use.

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“It is not clear on how it can be produced, sold and used for commercial use. This will send confusing signals to the public, commercial producers and law enforcement organs.”

The Umzimvubu Farmers Support Network NPC (UFSN), which represents Pondoland-based cannabis-growing communities, lashed out at what it termed as the disregard of its previous comments on the Bill.

“Quite clearly, our previously submitted substantive comments were not even considered when producing the most recent iteration of the Bill,” UFSN said in its submission.

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“We say this because it remains abundantly clear that the Bill does not, even in the slightest, make provision for the centuries old custom of cannabis use and cultivation by the beneficiaries of the UFSN, who remain the hundreds of thousands of amaMpondo cannabis farmers.

“Yes, these are the same farmers that our Honourable President Ramaphosa specifically mentioned in his most recent State of the Nation Address.

“When will lip service translate into meaningful policy and law that actually benefits our farmer beneficiaries – some of the true custodians of cannabis and the holders of associated indigenous knowledge on this beneficial plant?” UFSN asked.

UFSN members made the news in recent years after police raided and fumigated their plants.

The committee also received submissions from the Rastafarian community.

In a submission made under the non-profit organisation called New Race Consciousness, Thulo “Ras Inity” Mpholo called for amendments to allow Rastafarian students to keep and exchange cannabis on campus.

“The Bill should exempt members of the Ras Tafari academic community and student organisations of Ras Tafari to exchange cannabis for remuneration or reward on the campus premises,” said Mpholo.

@BonganiNkosi87

The Star

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