Marchers say Yes! and No! to new cannabis law

The Cannabis for Private Purposes Bill is awaiting the President’s signature to become law

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Some protesters at the annual Global Cannabis March in Johannesburg were not in favour of the new “cannabis bill” that is awaiting the President’s signature. Photos: Ihsaan Haffejee

Other protesters were in favour of the Bill at the march on Saturday.

Over 100 cannabis activists took to the streets of Johannesburg on Saturday to participate in the Global Cannabis March, an annual rally held around the world on the first Saturday in May. Similar rallies were held in Durban and Cape Town.

Protesters gathered at Pieter Roos Park in central Johannesburg, where police stood ready to accompany the marchers along the route.

“The police will escort us as we smoke weed in the streets openly. We’ve come a long way,” said Nkosana Doncabe, a young protester. He was sharing a joint with his friend.

Protesters were however divided on whether or not to support the new Cannabis for Private Purposes Bill, which is awaiting President Cyril Ramaphosa’s signature into law.

“In South Africa we have witnessed a remarkable journey towards cannabis liberation,” said Candice Nel, one of the protest conveners. “However, the proposed cannabis bill threatens to undermine this progress.”

She said the bill still criminalises certain cannabis activities and therefore perpetuates a harmful legacy of prohibition. She also said the bill “favours big corporations over small scale growers and entrepreneurs, legacy farmers and traditional healers”.

“We reject this bill that prioritises profits over people’s health and well-being,” said Nel.

But others at the march had come out in support of the bill. They chanted, “Cyril sign the bill!”

Longtime cannabis activist Myrtle Clarke was at the protest. In a statement she recently released, she said: “Fields of Green for All supports the signing into law of the imperfect Cannabis for Private Purposes Bill because this means that cannabis will be taken out of the Drugs and Drug Trafficking Act of 1992, with all sorts of happy knock-on consequences.”

“This significant step is a gain for us all, and will create an enabling environment in which we can move forward with regulations, plus actions that further advance our human rights. We would rather bring court challenges to tweak the bits and pieces than to continue to fight for years for the big, broad stuff already being offered to us,” Clarke said.

Protesters making their way across the Nelson Mandela bridge.

TOPICS:  Harm reduction Society

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