- Janet O'Donoghue and Jason O'Donoghue
S.A.C.C.R.A. RESPONSE TO THE DoJ RE THE PROPOSED PERSONAL USE REGULATION BILL
With reference to the Cannabis for Private Purposes Bill, we hereby wish to note the following:
The classification of the plant Cannabis sativa L. as an “undesirable dependence producing substance” which ensures its inclusion on schedule 7 of the Medicines Act and part 3 of schedule 2 of the Drugs Act is untrue, unfounded and unsupported by the scientific and empirical evidence currently available on natural cannabis.
It is easy to prove what is well known in common lore i.e. that Cannabis sativa L. is a safe, beneficial, and medicinally effective plant which also has massive potential as a raw material for many ecologically benign industries. The so-called “harms” of natural cannabis that make it “undesirable” to the state, and the severity of alleged possible psychological dependence comparative to, for example, chocolate which has a similar effect on the body, have still not been satisfactorily explained, tested or verified by the state.
Cannabis in its natural form is self-evidently, and according to the available documented empirical evidence, actually sui generis, sui juris i.e. unique and self-regulating, and both safe and beneficial in multiple ways. It is only psychoactive under certain circumstances, such as once heated, and moreover this psychoactive effect can have multiple scientifically documented and proven beneficial health effects due to its effect on the biochemistry of the body e.g. THC stimulates apoptosis which is the natural cell death mechanism of tumoural cells. The classification of the plant as “undesirable” is therefore not in accordance with the common lore or the in the best interests of the populace who very much desire to have access to this beneficial plant for both commercial and personal use.
Fifty years of extensive pharmaceutical research has failed to successfully produce a safe synthetic form of THC and it is only the synthetic version of THC which is actually dangerous and even addictive. Much of the medical research done prior to 2005 uses this synthetic form in studies which refer to it generically as “cannabis” when it is in fact synthetic THC, leading to the skewed conclusions on which current law is based. Medical science has only relatively recently produced several patented versions of safe synthetic CBD which have now been listed on schedule 4 of the Medicines Act.
Even alcohol and tobacco, whose harms in primary and secondary consumption are well documented scientifically, and which effects are absolutely life-threatening in nature, are not as regulated as the cannabis plant will be under the proposed act. Hence outdated, unconstitutional, and unscientific draconian law will remain, and even be further, entrenched in our legislature.
Protection of Human Rights
By dictating terms of individual personal use by consenting adults in private (which is the norm anyway) and the policing thereof, this bill uses the guise of upholding our right to privacy to in fact derogate our right to privacy by making it possible for police to invade the person and/or property of any ordinary citizen at any time or place without clearly defined probable cause being a requisite.
Most importantly, this bill derogates the right to life and the right to dignity (both of which are non-derogable under the constitution), as well as the right to bodily and psychological integrity, of both adults and children by restricting and therefore effectively denying, their access to effective herbal cannabis treatments for many life threatening and terminal illnesses. This will both affect private use through quantity restrictions and the policing of the proposed private use Act, and criminalise available safe, effective, inexpensive natural cannabis treatments absolutely. Treatments which do not have the horrific side effects of conventional pharmaceutical drugs including chemotherapy, radiation, and nuclear treatment.
By restricting trade in the plant and its products through SAHPRA policy this bill also violates the right to equal protection and benefit from the law by effectively legislating a monopolised commercial cannabis industry. De facto exclusion of the ordinary citizen from a legal cannabis industry will not alleviate the unwarranted and unnecessary criminalisation problems created under prohibition and in fact is most likely to increase them by maintaining it.
Economic freedom and equality
The proposed Cannabis for Private Purposes Act is economically discriminatory and precludes an equitable legal cannabis market in that it excludes the participation of the ordinary citizen from potentially viable self-employment or employment in a legitimate, equitable free market cannabis industry through the rigours of the regulatory policy dictated by SAHPRA, which will be applied if this bill is adopted, only to satisfy the requirement for SAHPRA to generate substantial income as a private company to maintain its functionality as a drug regulator.
SAHPRA policy employs excessive, extreme, and unnecessary infrastructure and measures for handling and securing cannabis, which make it even more economically unviable for an ordinary citizen to participate in the industry. This is undoubtedly due to US-patent-6630507 i.e. the worldwide patent for cannabinoids (the medicinally active substances found naturally in the plant and produced synthetically or semi-synthetically in pharmaceutical laboratories) as antioxidants and neuroprotectants - meaning they are effective for treating most human diseases and conditions. The worldwide license for products containing these cannabinoids both naturally extracted, and synthetic has long ago been granted to GW Pharmaceuticals and every license will therefore be under the dictates of that company.
South Africa can easily be called the Cannabis capital of the world due to the light conditions here which are perfect for growing the plant as evidenced by the long history of its use as a cash crop in rural areas where income would otherwise be impossible to ensure, and where it also has natural beneficial effects as a companion plant for food crops, and a safe and highly effective natural medicine. The simple cannabis plant can in fact form a truly sustainable basis as an infinitely renewable resource in this country for new, open source, truly free market, eco-friendly industries including fuel, food, fibre, textiles, plastics, building, cosmetics, and traditional herbal remedies. This bill will therefore simply further entrench economic discrimination against already marginalised ordinary citizens who could easily produce a substantial viable income through self-employment and micro industries in a legal market with zero infrastructure costs in our climate.
With regard to applicable International Law: Article 2 of the UNSCND provides for the following, in reference to Schedule IV drugs:
“A Party shall, if in its opinion the prevailing conditions in its country render it the most appropriate means of protecting the public health and welfare, prohibit the production, manufacture, export and import of, trade in, possession or use of any such drug except for amounts which may be necessary for medical and scientific research only, including clinical trials therewith to be conducted under or subject to the direct supervision and control of the Party.” The official commentary on the UNSCND indicates that parties are expected to make this judgment in good faith.
ALTERNATE PROPOSAL FOR LICENSING STRUCTURE TESTING AND ROLL OUT FOR AN EQUITABLE, FREE MARKET, COMMUNITY BASED MODEL FOR A COMMERCIAL CANNABIS INDUSTRY
Alternate means to fulfil the purposes of this bill exist and the government is obliged by the constitution to seriously and actually consider and verify or deny them as viable alternatives e.g. via granting a permit to SACCRA members for research purposes in the fields of traditional medicine, community development, socio-economic development, informal industry and agriculture. The SACCRA model, being member based and specific to Cannabis communities means that the larger public (who may not wish to participate) will not be imposed upon and will be free to participate or not as they choose at whatsoever level they choose. We request that government seriously consider and investigate the viability of the proposed evidence-based licensing structure supplied by SACCRA and in the interim grant an immediate permit for the testing of the viability of the SACCRA Socio-Economic & Educational Development Model. The founder members of the Association are absolutely available for consultation and collaboration to this end.
It is a simple policy decision by a) SAHPRA, b) the National Assembly c) the National Council of Provinces or d) the Supreme Court to, based on available scientific and empirical evidence of the safety and efficacy of cannabis, change the classification of cannabis to a benign and beneficial plant and to consequently immediately reschedule (to schedule 0), and ultimately de-schedule the plant, once a responsible, equitable, self-regulated, truly free-market cannabis industry has been established in this country via community associations. The S.A.C.C.R.A. argument and evidence as well as the proposed licensing structure is available from the Executive Council and more information is available on www.saccra.org.za.