Small-scale dagga farm­ers in KZN pre­pare for green light on leg­is­la­tion

Sunday Tribune - - NEWS - SIBONISO MNGADI

WHILE the coun­try awaits the Na­tional Assem­bly’s muchan­tic­i­pated de­ci­sion on the le­gal­i­sa­tion of dagga, some farm­ers in Kwazulu-na­tal are champ­ing at the bit to start cul­ti­va­tion.

This comes af­ter the Western Cape High Court in March found that laws pro­hibit­ing the use of cannabis and the pos­ses­sion, pur­chase and/or cul­ti­va­tion – in pri­vate homes and for per­sonal use – were in­con­sis­tent with the Con­sti­tu­tion and de­clared them in­valid.

The judg­ment was hailed a ma­jor vic­tory by some po­lit­i­cal par­ties and civil groups.

How­ever, Par­lia­ment has yet to amend the leg­is­la­tion, a process that could take up to two years.

Ea­ger to start farm­ing, the Cannabis Coun­cil of SA had its first brief­ing ses­sion with farm­ers in Cam­per­down on Thurs­day, to dis­cuss the way for­ward and form­ing an in­dus­try as­so­ci­a­tion.

About 150 small-scale farm­ers from across the prov­ince at­tended.

The coun­cil iden­ti­fied smallscale farm­ers who would be as­sisted in get­ting into the in­dus­try. They are in the Mel­moth, Kwadukuza, Man­dini, Win­ter­ton, Un­der­berg and South Coast areas.

Founder of the coun­cil Krithi Thaver said it wanted to ed­u­cate farm­ers on how they would be in­te­grated into the model. He main­tained that cul­ti­vat­ing cannabis for ei­ther medic­i­nal or other in­dus­trial pur­poses would be strictly con­trolled.

“The farm­ers will have to im­port the seeds from ei­ther Europe or China. If they are un­able to af­ford the costs them­selves, the coun­cil will help them find pri­vate-sec­tor fund­ing,” said Thaver.

How­ever, South Africa’s An­tidrug Al­liance has crit­i­cised the in­ten­tion to de­crim­i­nalise dagga, say­ing pub­lic and pro­fes­sional aware­ness needs to be im­proved around the is­sue.

The al­liance claimed that health prac­ti­tion­ers, doc­tors specif­i­cally, had not been ed­u­cated or trained on us­ing cannabis as a treat­ment al­ter­na­tive and sug­gested that they needed mas­sive ed­u­ca­tion once its pro­duc­tion be­came le­gal.

Var­i­ous groups, such as the Phoenix North Coast Can­cer Support Group, said it was also gear­ing up to pro­vide med­i­cal cannabis treat­ment at af­ford­able prices for can­cer pa­tients, once le­galised.

The group said it was busy form­ing strate­gic al­liances with rep­utable com­pa­nies to make its prod­ucts af­ford­able and avail­able via the support group.

“Though not yet le­galised, it seems pa­tients are some­how sourc­ing med­i­cal cannabis.

“Pa­tients need to be ex­tremely care­ful of their source as if it is not med­i­cally man­u­fac­tured, it could have ad­verse con­se­quences,” read the state­ment.

A com­mer­cial sugar cane grower, Noah Nyawo from Kwambonambi, near Em­pan­geni, said he had al­ready pre­sented his plan to the KZN De­part­ment of Agri­cul­ture.

“Let’s be hon­est, peo­ple have been grow­ing this plant for a long time ago, es­pe­cially in the ru­ral areas. Now there is a flicker of hope that this spe­cial plant may be de­crim­i­nalised and we must be ready for that.

“I have re­served land to cul­ti­vate dagga. My busi­ness plan is with the de­part­ment, this could change many peo­ple’s lives, I be­lieve it is just a mat­ter of time,” said Nyawo.

De­part­ment of agri­cul­ture spokesper­son Khaye Nk­wanyana said it had not yet pre­pared any plans on the cul­ti­va­tion of dagga since the mat­ter was still wait­ing on Par­lia­ment.

“We have been re­ceiv­ing pro­pos­als and busi­ness plans from var­i­ous farm­ers and or­gan­i­sa­tion who have shown in­ter­est in cul­ti­vat­ing cannabis. We ac­cept their pro­pos­als but we have not made any plans and will wait un­til Par­lia­ment says some­thing,” said Nk­wanyana.

Dagga has been in the mix re­cently, and prospec­tive grow­ers claim to be ready to get grow­ing.

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