Thursday, June 9, 2016

Cannabis decriminalised in South Africa

The Central Drug Authority announced in the June edition of the South African Medical Journal that the new policy direction for cannabis was decriminalisation. 

What exactly this mean is unclear. What is clear is that the CDA know next to nothing about cannabis. A central point or theme of the paper is that the CDA lack the evidence they need. This is because the evidence, as it exists, doesn't suit them. The CDA have chosen to remain ignorant of the details of the international developments. They know they've happened, because they refer to them, but they don't look at the evidence as to what it is that has happened or how it has turned out.

To return to the beginning the CDA were required to do research into the legalisation and decriminalisation of cannabis in 1999. By 2004 the first draft was completed, but this was never released. Now in 2016 the CDA produce a position paper which is two and a half pages long which states that they don't know anything about cannabis? This is an insult. A third of the endnotes are alcohol related. Since 2013 until 2016 all the head of the CDA research division could come up with are 10 references?

What is clear is that the CDA haven't taken legal advice. The jurisprudence of decriminalisation versus legalisation doesn't get a mention in the SAMJ article. Decriminalisation is bad in law. Asking the police, prosecutors, magistrates and judges to ignore a law as a matter of policy goes against the grain. The police, prosecutors, magistrates and judges are there to apply the laws. Having a policy which is to ignore the infractions of a law under a certain level is a recipe for confusion. The CDA didn't address this in their position paper. 

The CDA haven't even informed parliament that they are going to be announcing this change in policy. The CDA made no mention of anything in this vein when they gave their opinion on cannabis to the Parliamentary committee on Health. It does make one wonder what is going on?

Where does this leave us? In the middle of the horse having bolted. It's half way out the door and the CDA still know nothing. The details of the decriminalisation aren't in the position statement. How much cannabis will people be allowed to possess. Will people be allowed to grow their own? Who knows, but the details will come out soon enough.

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