Cannabis judgment paves way for research development
The global discourse around cannabis prohibition has gained significant momentum over the course of the last 15 years. This is largely due to a growing realisation of the need for reform.
The historically dominant model of legislated prohibition is gradually being challenged by overwhelming evidence of its inefficacy.
On Tuesday, 25 September 2018, the Constitutional Court decriminalised the possession and cultivation of cannabis in private by adults for personal private consumption. The court relied on the right to privacy to reach this result.
Although the order was suspended until Parliament can amend legislation, the court provided interim relief that will make it unlawful for the police to arrest adults who privately cultivate, possess or use relatively small amounts of cannabis.
Mothupi Boikanyo is a master’s student in social sciences at the North-West University (NWU) and an avid activist for cannabis decriminalisation. His honours research focused on the country’s legislative and legal approach to the total prohibition of cannabis, especially for personal and private use.
Mothupi collated and assessed the merits of pro- and anti-legalisation arguments and illustrated how and why prohibition is ineffective. The most prominent points argued in Mothupi’s research relate to civil rights and the constitution, and prohibition’s impact on levels of use.
Echoing the sentiments of the judgment is Mothupi’s recommendation that the “unwillingness of prohibitionists to have an honest, open and balanced discussion will have to give way to constructive engagement if any progress is to be made in the arena of cannabis law reform”.
A recent report by the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine said there was definitive evidence that cannabis or cannabinoids (which are found in the marijuana plant), can be an effective treatment for chronic pain. The report stated that this is by far the most common reason people request medical marijuana.
According to an article published in the SA Medical Journal by the Central Drug Authority (CDA) – a government advisory body which supports the decriminalisation of cannabis – the CDA called for a “balanced and pragmatic” approach to cannabis use and abuse. This is especially in light of evidence showing that decriminalisation could contribute to improved public health.
Prof Eva Manyedi, from the NWU’s School of Nursing and a member of the CDA’s 10-person executive committee says harm reduction refers to policies and interventions that aim to reduce the harmful consequences of alcohol, tobacco, cannabis and other psychoactive substance use.
“The criminalisation of cannabis hasn’t worked. There is little evidence that reducing the supply of substances via criminalisation is successfully reducing the abuse of alcohol, tobacco, cannabis or any other substances,” she says.
While the highest court in the country may have vindicated some from persecution for the private use of cannabis, activists like Mothupi Boikanyo say the fight for legal reform still has a long way to go.
Mothupi Boikanyo is an avid activist for cannabis decriminalisation. His honours research focused on the country’s legislative and legal approach to the total prohibition of cannabis.