Three years after the late Mario Ambrosini, from the Inkatha Freedom Party (IFP), submitted the Medical Innovation Bill and after turmoil of protests, the Marijuana Bill was finally passed in parliament on the 24th November 2016, however only limiting it to patients with prescribed health conditions, clearly this isn’t enough for Bongalong organisation and marijuana supporters as there is an upcoming cannabis march on the 6th May 2017.
The annual Cannabis march marks the period in time where the streets of Cape Town will be jam-packed with liberated protesters, chanting and walking in hope that South Africa legalises the cultivation of organic marijuana and industrial hemp. However things will be slightly different this year, as there is hope that the plant will be completely legalised in South Africa. Although Dr Joey Gouws, the MCC registrar and the department of health have confirmed that the implementation of the Marijuana framework regulations to be published in February 2017 and implemented by April, it is still illegal to use the plant, it being for medical reasons or recreational purposes.
In 2014, I had the opportunity to attend the 1.6 km ‘green’ walk against the decriminalisation of adult use of dagga, where Jeremy Acton: the leader of The Dagga Party Of South Africa opened with a speech informing smokers the procedures they need to take if they were ever to be convicted for the public use of cannabis, he then stated that “There’s no fertility in the dagga culture, the more you use, the healthier one gets in the longer run”, a statement proven to be true by the Medicine Control Council a year later.
Going back into history, personally I don’t get why the legalisation of marijuana has to go through lengths of the so called “Innovation Bill”, especially in South Africa, where traditional medicines were the dominant way of healing the nation holistically and spiritually. With the largest Rastafarian community in the Southern Africa, it is rather absurd that only in 2017; the Government chooses to consider looking into the medical control of cannabis use.
For a ‘Rainbow’ nation, racism still stands forth front while the Rastafarian community is quickly labelled and judged by society for their use of dagga. Not understanding the spiritual benefits that include cleansing their soul, curing terminal illnesses and its political stance, being a symbol of rebelling against implemented laws of ‘Babylon’, which is a term associated with Western society, a society full of oppression and injustice. This however doesn’t discard the negative health effects the use of cannabis has, such as chronic diabetes, lower birth weight for mothers smoking during pregnancy and even impaired academic achievement.
With turmoil between political parties, it seems that the legalisation of marijuana has moved more than dagga users, but bringing two parties together, with the support of the DA members which were in action stating that “We welcome the progressive path that the Department has taken on this issue and urge the Minister of Health to sign-off on the new regulations so that the process can be opened up to public comment. The faster this process can be undertaken, the quicker these products can be made available to those who need it. This will ultimately give patients and their health care provider’s greater choice in treating certain difficult conditions through the use of safe, medicinal cannabis”. However still leaving the ball in the ANC court, President Zuma has to declare the awaiting promulgation amendment of the Medicines and Related Substances Act.
The debate on trusting the President Zuma to make the pass the Medical Innovation Bill on chronical illnesses such as HIV/AIDS, mental illness and cancer, while he has a number of wives is for another day, what the community is more concerned about is downgrading the Marijuana use from being a banned substance from Schedule 7 and moving it to Schedule 6, for medicinal use, which still remains immensely restrictive with its T, H & C’s.