South Africa is a land with plenty of potential, featuring innovative people, beautiful landscapes, and ideal conditions for cannabis cultivation. However, there are a few rotten organizations and wasted opportunities making South Africa’s potential future with “seas of green” as improbable as the country’s ability to keep the lights on. To understand just what a shame South Africa’s current cannabis situation is, let’s get into some context.
Tendencies to Shift Blame
Anyone who has heard anything about South Africa likely knows about the nation’s “load-shedding”—a term used to refer to reducing a load of electricity supply to avoid excessive load on the generating plant. The nation is in the midst of a record-long stretch of load-shedding, and the blame just gets shifted from one to the next. From blaming protesting workers to old infrastructure at generating plants, fingers are being pointed in every direction, and no one is taking responsibility.
President Cyril Ramaphosa has urged citizens to be patient amidst the increasing public-wide anger over persistent, inconsistent load-shedding. The situation has become so bad that there are rumors of a country-wide blackout and something referred to as “stage 15” of load-shedding. Considering that stage 5 load-shedding means shedding 5000 MW—a cause for concern among South Africa’s investors—one can only imagine the extent of stage 15.
The Load-shedding Crisis as an Indicator
You may be wondering what the heck load-shedding has to do with the problems the nation is facing concerning the promise of a “green dawn” (a cannabis industry)? Well, the answer is simple. South Africa, with all its potential, is being wasted by those in control and their empty promises of improvements and implementation of policies and strategies for improving the quality of life.
Future Seas of Green Washed Away
Cannabis was decriminalized in 2018 with implications that policies would be implemented to regulate its decriminalized state. Now, a group of cannabis activists is preparing to go back to court to force the government to pass legalization to create a legal cannabis industry, reports Mail & Guardian.
The news platform goes on to explain, “The failure of the state to create an enabling environment for the South African cannabis industry is preventing the take off of president Cyril Ramaphosa’s much-publicized green revolution, which he has punted in successive state of the nation addresses.” While it may appear that we are dealing with another president full of cannabis-oriented empty promises, the nation is making moves—but not how it’s supposed to.
The country has recently ruled that children who are caught with cannabis in possession will not be criminalized, as it would be a violation of the constitution. How can the nation essentially say that the underaged (18 years and younger) are essentially free to have cannabis without taking the time to properly establish the parameters of the substance’s decriminalization or legalization?
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The statement from the Constitutional Court responded to the nation’s concerns about essentially allowing the underaged to have cannabis by stating, “The Constitutional Court reiterated that this judgment does not permit a child to use and/possess cannabis without consequence but provides that such use and/or possession must be met with social response.” But what does that even mean?
Fighting for South Africa’s Cannabis Industry
There are so many questions and concerns about the state of cannabis, the Constitutional Court rulings, and the stall of cannabis legalization as campaigned by the president himself, yet answers remain aloof. South Africa is a country with very high unemployment rates and massive amounts of debt, and the cannabis industry could contribute to easing both of those problems.
Mail & Guardian explains that the cannabis industry “is estimated to turn over around R28 billion [± $1.5 billion] a year,” as well as open up many job opportunities for those unemployed and struggling to find work. The government was supposed to have two years to implement new legislation dealing with the “unconstitutional nature of existing laws,” but it has since been four years.
The Dagga Couple, two very active cannabis activists in South Africa, founded a nonprofit organization known as Field of Green for All. However, one half of the Dagga Couple was murdered during their campaign to get the government and court to pass the legislation known as Cannabis for Private Purposes Bill, which should have been passed in 2020 as per the Constitutional Court ruling. Since that is yet another strategy meant to improve lives that has gone unchecked by the government, the remaining half of the couple and their organization are heading back to court.
As a result, a series of protests have begun to try and push the government to speed up the process, which should not be needed considering the fact that they had the time to make it illegal to criminalize the underaged in possession of cannabis. However, once again, no one is taking responsibility for the delay in passing legislation, apart from the activists who have taken the responsibility of holding the government to their word and rulings.
As things are now, people are still getting arrested for cannabis despite decriminalization, and the economy (and people) can’t benefit from the commerce side of the cannabis industry. Fields of Green for All is currently working on a fund to assist those who have been arrested for cannabis (a technically legal plant), but there is so much gray area as a result of the delay of the legislation, which is causing challenges.
Mail & Guardian explains that Myrtle Clark (the remaining half of the Dagga Couple)’s lawyer, Paul-Micheal Keichel, said that “We have the president in his SONA [State Of the Nation Address] saying yes, we are going to unlock this industry and create jobs…yet it just seems like a lot of talk and a lot of perpetual imminence” but that “people are arrested on a daily basis and dragged through the criminal justice system and have their lives ruined, which is shameful.”
The people are “done waiting for the government to do the right thing,” but if load-shedding has taught us anything, it’s that those in power are the most unreliable. South Africans have technically already been granted the right to personal and private use, cultivation, and possession of cannabis, yet the legislation is MIA, and the people are in desperate need of the opportunity the seas of green could offer.