There may be no new updates regarding cannabis legislation in South Africa, but the citizens themselves update themselves all the time. If you look closer, if you read between the lines, you will find that the state of limbo of South African cannabis legislation has started processes behind closed doors. Did you know that the country’s first medical cannabis dispensary has opened in Durban? Or that a coffee shop in upmarket Sandton is selling cannabis in its meals and as joints upstairs? When travellers come to sunny South Africa, they seem to know just where to source some of the best cannabis around – right here, in our streets, from our people!
Just more than a year ago, the Western Cape High Court ruled that sections of the Drugs and Drug Trafficking Act, and the Medicines Act, were not legal anymore, in terms of the Constitution. This was as momentous judgement for cannabis legislation in South Africa as it meant that cannabis cannot be banned when grown, used or bought by adults for private home use. There will be no update to cannabis legislation until the Constitutional Court decides these Acts are invalid. And when it does, there will still be several months to wait while parliament rectifies mistakes as the judgement will demand. Only then will it be legal for an adult to own, buy or grow cannabis for personal consumption at home. Meanwhile, many people are already doing this.
Cannabis is still illegal in South Africa, and cannot be commercially used at all. Anyone caught carrying cannabis can be jailed and no one can grow it. Cannabis is still classified as a Schedule 1 drug, on the same level as crack cocaine. It appears that the South African Police are working with the National Prosecuting Authority (NPA) and the Medicines Control Council (MCC) to hand over all the homegrown cannabis to big pharmaceuticals. Is this fair? There are hundreds of local farmers who could grow cannabis for the commercial and medical market, benefiting economically and socially. But the carpet could be swept from under their feet.
Medical cannabis is still illegal, especially if it contains tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) which makes the user high. The owner of the first ever cannabis dispensary in Durban is selling cannabidiol (CBD) medical cannabis oils and products. Krithi Thaver is a 33 year old Durban resident who is working with the SAP and government, educating them about the science behind THC and CBD and how these cannabinoids should be allowed to heal sick people. His Holistic Relief Wellness and Pain Management Center offers cannabis and ayurvedic oils for alternative health care.
There is a coffee shop in Sandton that sells cannabis too – you can order a pizza sprinkled with cannabis flowers and then smoke a joint upstairs. The 420 Cafe is popular with business people who come during lunch time to re-energise before the afternoon shift! And all along the streets in Johannesburg, cannabis sellers lurk. There are flea markets, herb shops and Rastafarian shops selling cannabis. Everyone knows, but it is illegal?
South Africans await the new legislation with anticipation. There may be nothing new happening right now, but it is business as usual for private growers and users.