Many people are wondering when South Africa will legalize cannabis. The decision still lies with Parliament and the Constitution as the laws around the Drugs and Drug Trafficking Act and the Medicines Control Act need to be reviewed. The Western Cape High Court ruled in 2017 that adults in private homes may use marijuana. It declared that certain sections of the before-mentioned Acts are unenforceable and unreliable in terms of the Constitution. If these sections within the two Acts are declared “invalid”, then adults may own, buy or grow cannabis in their own homes.
The irony is that adults are growing, buying and owning cannabis while the courts sit on the decision. Nothing has changed as of June 2018 regarding cannabis laws in South Africa because nothing has been done to change invalid sections of the Drugs and Drug Trafficking Act and the Medicines Control Act. Cannabis is still illegal, along with medical cannabis, and is still classed the same as crack cocaine, a Schedule 1 drug. Police still arrest hundreds of people daily for owning, growing or using cannabis. Surely this is a waste of energy from South African authorities?
When will South Africa legalize cannabis and allow citizens to choose their own medication and ways of relaxation? Why do South Africans continue to grow, use and buy cannabis despite the lack of finalisation in the law? Because everything sits in limbo. In Durban, the first ever medical cannabis dispensary has opened. Owner Krithi Thaver is also the founder of Canna Culture and chairs the KwaZulu-Natal Branch of the Cannabis Development Council for South Africa. He calls his medical cannabis dispensary the Holistic Relief Wellness and Pain Management Center, the first in Africa to offer cannabis and ayurvedic oils as alternative therapy options. He also treats cancer here.
Thaver is following the law in some ways as he knows that only cannabindiol (CBD) is legal in South Africa, from the hemp cannabis plant. Tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), another compound in the cannabis plant, makes users high and is not legal. He said that he is in talks with government regarding the pros and cons of CBD and THC and how science clarifies the medical use of both plant chemicals.
The double irony is that a coffee shop in Sandton is openly selling cannabis and international travellers to South Africa find cannabis everywhere. There are Rastafarian shops and African herb shops and flea markets and people who stroll around the streets – selling cannabis! One tourist said that he asked around in the streets of Johannesburg and found 7 options to buy cannabis in one street. The 420 Cafe in Sandton makes food that incorporates the cannabis herb in most dishes. Order pizza with cannabis flower, then go upstairs to smoke a joint. Who is looking? Everyone turns a blind eye.
The latest news is that the South African Medicines Control Council (MCC) is controlling the decisions around cannabis legalization in the country, in cahoots with the Police and the National Prosecuting Authority (NPA). Their plan is nauseating – to take the freshly cultivated cannabis from rural, poor growers and to give it to big name pharmaceuticals to make the money. Watch this space! We see the corruption and we still ask: When will South Africa legalize cannabis?