SEVERAL CASES before South Africa’s courts, challenge the current prohibition regime, which has been in force since the apartheid era, where it was considered a “demotivating factor for white conscripts” into the SADF, since it encouraged intermingling with “blacks”.
In addition to the well-publicised “Dagga Couple” case before the Constitutional Court, which has amalgamated similar cases, there is a December 7 challenge in the Western Cape High Court by Gareth Prince, Jeremy Acton and the Dagga Party.
The state continues to defend prohibition, citing a number of concerns, including that ending prohibition will “retard the gains it has made in developing the social fabric”, which is really semaphore for community standards.
The right-wing religious lobby in the country has been opposed to harm reduction and drug liberalisation from the very start, with conservatives opposed to anything which smacks of ‘entertainment, intoxication, and recreational drug use’. Those moral grundies in our society, who also wish to deprive adults of the use of alcohol, and other forms of “vice”, with a policy and ideology that really fits hand-in-glove with a conservative agenda that is anti-porn, anti-choice, anti-rights.
Individual choices, the right of citizens to decide for themselves, the constitutionally-enshrined cognitive liberties to think for ourselves and control our own bodies, are compounded by the image, punted by this well-funded and influential lobby group of drug-crazed insanity — hopelessly addicted savages, unkempt wild ‘skollies’, who, if it were not for drug enforcement, would be raping, pillaging and plundering.
This bleak view which negates human agency, is compounded by a moral dilemma faced by users, who justifiably break the law, in what is essentially a victimless crime, but in so doing, are either forced to support a black market, with all the problems this entails, or to grow their own.
Conservatives argue that the black market is synonymous with drug use, and therefore both ‘user and producer’, ‘drugster and drug dealer’, are essentially the same animal. The evidence on the economics underlying cannabis however, does not support such opinions. Oakland, California, which was a poor, mainly black suburb near San Francisco has witnessed first hand, the benefits that ending prohibition can bring to the economy.
The well-known Oaksterdam district, now a tourist Mecca, emulates Amsterdam and its laissez faire Coffee Shops, while providing work and job opportunities to a thriving industry which exists around cannabis culture. Under current City bylaws, four officially permitted dispensaries exist in the City of Oakland. Anything from edibles such as dagga cookies and cannabis chocolate, to a selection of hybrid plants specifically designed to remove some of the more irritating traits found in local dagga, is on sale — it is safe to say, one man’s whisky is not necessarily another man’s moonshine.
A similar liberalisation policy in South Africa, could entail the development of “green-light districts” in a phased approach to the problem. In this way, communities could decide for themselves, by controlling their own standards, methods and policy on drug use, and especially in regard to marijuana and alcohol. Off sale liquor was strictly controlled at one point in South Africa, and in order to get a tipple, diners had to purchase a meal. A doctors prescription for alcohol seems as absurd, as getting one for cannabis. *
Similar rules might apply to any experiment in liberalisation. In the same way, pornographers appear to have created what are known as “red-light districts” sequestering away the trade in adult literature, sex toys and lap-dances. The apartheid regime saw rigid control of such “social ills”, with naked women, forced to wear nipple caps, and stars covering the breasts of monthly pin-ups.
A green-light district or cannabis zone, would allow users to purchase and imbibe their legal fix, but out of sight of granny and grandpa.
* Note: The merits of the medical model at issue, will be discussed in both cases.