Wednesday 12 May 2021
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To decriminalise or not- this is the question.

Decriminalisation is a loosening of the criminal penalties which are now imposable for personal marijuana use even though the manufacturing and sale of the substance remain illegal. People caught using the substance would face civil fines instead of criminal charges.

Cannabis in Namibia is illegal for recreational and medical uses. Cannabis and mandrax are the most popular illicit drugs in the country. Per a 2011 UNODC report, the incidences of annual cannabis usage in Namibia was 3.9% in 2000.

The term dagga or grass is often used for cannabis, with a cannabis cigarette termed a zol or joint.

Around 2007, the Combating the Abuse of Drugs Act was proposed in Namibia. It proposed to offer a 20 year jail sentence even for first-time drug offenders, regardless of drug type or quantity. Protests were raised against the proposal, particularly by Namibia’s creative class and Rastafarian community.

In 2015 it was announced that Australian mining firm Erin Resources had acquired rights to grow medical cannabis in Namibia. An article in the publication ‘Australian Mining’ at the time reported that “the miner is the latest to act as a backdoor listing vehicle for medical marijuana companies, after it ‘acquired’ 100 per cent of the capital of MGC Pharmaceuticals in late May.”

The decriminalisation of cannabis in Namibia has the potential to systematically eradicate poverty in marginalised communities and give them the opportunity to have affordable access to the medicines that can be manufactured from it.

If adequately regulated and protected by government, the decriminalisation of cannabis has the potential add a new aspect to the countries tourism industry.

The recent arrest of several cannabis farmers along the coast of Namibia prompted a protest action alongside the launch of a campaign to decriminalise cannabis use and farming. Members and supporters of the Ganja Users of Namibia (GUN), the Rastafari United Front (RUF), the Rasta Community of Erongo (RCE) as well as the Association for Cannabis and Hemp in Namibia (ACHN) held protest marches in Swakopmund and Windhoek to hand petitions to the Erongo Regional Governor, Cleophas Mutjavikua and to the Speaker of the National Assembly, Professor Peter Katjivivi.
“We are well aware of the economic crisis that is hurting and harming the masses of the world and especially Namibia and we encourage our Government to look at the potential of a legal cannabis industry as a way to benefit our economy through taxation and rural empowerment via job creation by a whole new industry that cannabis and hemp offer,” the ACHN stated in their petition.

“We demand that cannabis be legalised for medical, cultural, religious, environmental, economical (sic) and agricultural reasons and purposes. Some of Namibia’s oldest inhabitants used cannabis medicinally for thousands of years until Apartheid laws made it a criminal offence. These laws were introduced by the racist Apartheid government.”

The benefits of using cannabis for medicinal purposes include; pain relief, could reduce anxiety, stress and depression. It can alleviate cancer related symptoms, reduce acne, benefit heart health; have anti-psychotic effects and the reduction of high blood pressure.

The side effects include diarrhea, changes in appetite and fatigue. Cannabis (oil) can also have effects when used in conjunction with other medicine, therefore it is recommended to consult your doctor before replacing or complementing your medication with it.

In a commentary prepared by Toni Hancox of the Legal Assistance Centre in 2007 he commented that “traditionally only possession and buying, selling and supplying of drugs were criminal offences. “Consumption” has now been added and it raises some concern as to how this will be dealt with.

Assuming that some indication of use and some kind of testing will be required, care should be taken that such procedure does not offend a person’s right to privacy protected under article 13 and respect for human dignity protected under article 8 of the Namibian Constitution.”

He concludes that “this bill would appear to treat those that consume drugs equally harshly with those who sell drugs to our youth even though the level of blameworthiness must surely differ.It also does not differentiate in any structured manner between “hard” and “soft” drugs. The bill seeks to punish offenders that need our assistance and not our sanction.

There is no mention in the bill of rehabilitation, surely the first priority which should spring to mind. It need not be said that the Ministry of Safety and Security will require a rather substantial additional budget to accommodate all its new inmates for lengthy periods of time.

Does not consider that mistakes can be made but that one should treat such mistakes with understanding where possible.

A strong case can be made for the decriminalisation of medicinal use of cannabis, which in fact does have many varied benefits. Though there is much to be learned about the efficacy and safety of CBD, results from recent studies suggest that CBD may provide a safe, powerful natural treatment for many health issues.

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