- Cannabis is no longer a plant that should be regulated by the Ministry of Health alone
- The Opium and Habit-Forming Drugs Act of 1922 and Pharmacy Act of 1929 are outdated
Mbabane – The Eswatini Cannabis Association (ECA) has written a letter advising the Ministry of Health to, among other things, include other ministries, private sector and traditional healers in regulation of the Eswatini Cannabis Control Act.
Through the letter, the association’s Secretary General Trevor Shongwe said the Eswatini Hemp and Cannabis Association have always advocated for an all- inclusive stand-alone Eswatini Cannabis Control Act, that will give birth to a stand-alone Cannabis regulatory authority, which in turn will comprise of local and international cannabis experts.
Shongwe said the Eswatini Hemp and Cannabis Association comprises of different cannabis expertise both international and local, such as Doctors, Professors and indigenous knowledge system.
He said it was a known fact that the cannabis plant was Eswatini’s last remaing natural resource so we cannot afford to outsource it to international corporations at the expense of rural indigenous Emaswati.
“We have since realised after extensively studying international and African Cannabis legislations that Cannabis is no longer a plant that should be regulated by the Ministry of Health alone, but should also include other government departments such as Ministry of Agriculture, Commerce, Finance, Economic Planning as well as the private sector including the Eswatini Hemp and Cannabis Association, The University of Eswatini, Traditional Healers as well as The Royal Science and Technology Park,” reads the letter in part.
Shongwe said the Opium and Habit-Forming Drugs Act of 1922 and Pharmacy Act of 1929 are outdated, colonial (forced on our people) and are draconian in nature. Thus, they cannot be amended but rather need to be repealed by first removing the cannabis plant and all its derivatives from such bills, as it has been witnessed in many international legal cannabis jurisdictions such as Canada, USA, South Africa, DRC, Malawi etc.
He highlighted that the only reason Eswatini should legalise cannabis is mainly for recreational purposes as this presents far more better opportunities in the international cannabis community, than pharmaceutical cannabis which represents very limited markets.
“This is also supported by the fact that recreational cannabis is our strongest point and it will empower hundreds of thousands of rural indigenous emaSwati who have traded in the illegal cannabis industry since the beginning of time, this will also present an opportunity for taxation and thus, an increase in our national GDP. This also saves millions in our annual budget that is otherwise wasted on policing cannabis during raids, housing those incarcerated and rehabilitating people who should not even be on any rehabilitation programme,” he said.
Shongwe believes that the legalisation of cannabis will also keep the youth of Eswatini out of crime by preventing them from committing petty crimes like stealing livestock for food in the rural areas and also causing mayhem by involving themselves on issues such as the current political mayhem.
He highlighted that the legalisation of cannabis also curbs the issue of vast criminality that is currently associated with cannabis cultivation in Eswatini as well as the gross violation of children and women human rights abuse in as far as cannabis labour issues are concerned.
“It is a known fact that E100 000 000 split among 10 000 people is better for the economy than that same amount in the pockets of 10 people as proposed by the government through the Ministry of Health’s approach. There is just better circulation this way and a lot happier people actively participating in our economy,” he said.
For the record there is no international quota that exists for cannabis by the International Cannabis Board (INCB) that limits countries from growing cannabis for recreational purposes for UN member states, as witnessed in international legal cannabis jurisdictions that have been farming and distributing recreational cannabis for medicinal purposes for over 20 years to date, such as several states in the USA (Colorado, Washington, California etc) as well as countries such as Canada, Netherlands, Spain, Malawi, DRC, South Africa, there are absolutely no limits presented by the single convention on narcotics and drugs of 1961(we never initially ratified this said act because as a country we only got independence in 1968) in as far as the growing and distribution of recreational cannabis is concerned.
It is a known fact that the UN has rather taken a different stance in as far as rescheduling the cannabis plant, because it has been scientifically proven in the past 60 years that it possesses medicinal values.
Otherwise, it would not have been decriminalised in South Africa, The USA, Spain, Canada, Malawi, DRC, Zimbabwe, Lesotho etc if such Acts would have prevented countries from doing such.
Systems such as the one that is now being proposed in South Africa wouldn’t be viable at all if such analogy is correct. In South Africa it has recently been proposed through the Cannabis for Personal Purposes Bill of 2022 that a household with one adult can possess 600 grams and where two or more adults reside then they could possess 1.2kg of recreational cannabis for personal use.
The number of trees per household that will be permitted by law is still being debated though at this point in time. In the recent State Of the Nation address the President of South Africa Cyril Ramaphosa announced a program of empowering and legitimising thousands of local South African rural indigenous recreational cannabis growers in the Eastern Cape, KwaZulu Natal as well as eMampondweni by fully commercialising the cannabis industry in South Africa for the benefit of these indigenous people.
Shongwe said this was now causing a huge strain on the local Eswatini illegal cannabis production as it has completely shut down markets for hundreds of thousands of rural indigenous Emaswati who have been supplying the South African market all these years so as to put food on their tables and with providing basic needs for the people.
“This status quo will now present a huge social problem for the government of Eswatini in terms of now having to provide these people with an alternative source of income due to the shortage of previous cannabis markets (black markets which has always presented danger to many Emaswati old and young who have been trading in illegal cannabis for these years in these rural communities).”