‘Robin Hood’ out of woods

Weekend Argus (Saturday Edition) - - FRONT PAGE - SHEREE BEGA

SHEL­DON Cramer doesn’t know why he is called the ‘Robin Hood’ of cannabis oil.

“The me­dia gave me that name,” he quips. “But I have made it to the top of the or­gan­ised crime list more than once,” he says, laugh­ing.

Cramer, who runs the Bobby Green­hash Foun­da­tion, pro­duces thou­sands of bot­tles of medic­i­nal cannabis oil ev­ery day, which are sent across the coun­try to users – of­ten free of charge to those who can’t af­ford it.

But for more than five years, Cramer says his out­fit has been op­er­at­ing in the “un­der­belly of so­ci­ety in an il­le­gal cannabis in­dus­try.

“We’ve been deal­ing with cor­rupt politi­cians, mag­is­trates, pros­e­cu­tors who are mak­ing money out of the sys­tem,” he claims.

To­day, his foun­da­tion is part of the coun­try’s firstever clin­i­cal cannabis con­ven­tion in Joburg.

“Even­tu­ally, we’re get­ting a lot of med­i­cal pro­fes­sion­als to­gether in one place… We’ve come to a point now where doc­tors ac­cept the medic­i­nal value but not what cannabis is about.”

His foun­da­tion is set­ting up a sci­en­tific re­search fa­cil­ity into cannabis to work with uni­ver­si­ties to con­duct stud­ies and to doc­u­ment lo­cal strains to de­velop a uniquely African model.

As delegates at­tended the SA Drug Pol­icy Week, a con­fer­ence to in­form the coun­try’s new na­tional drug master plan by the Cen­tral Drug Au­thor­ity, Cramer says he hopes of­fi­cials “will see the light”.

“I’m hop­ing they will start to fo­cus on harm re­duc­tion in­stead of chuck­ing junkies into jail and re­hab. “That hasn’t worked.” Shaun Shelly, the founder of the SA Drug Pol­icy Week, says it’s crit­i­cal that the master plan be ro­bust, ev­i­dence-based and ap­pro­pri­ate, with al­ter­na­tives to the “costly and in­ef­fec­tive crim­i­nal jus­tice re­sponse”.

“In­creas­ingly the crim­i­nal jus­tice re­sponse to drugs is be­ing chal­lenged.

“Peo­ple are strug­gling to come to terms with the ap­par­ent im­pact of drugs on the health and well-be­ing of com­mu­ni­ties.”

Anand Grover, a com­mis­sioner on The Global Com­mis­sion on Drug Pol­icy, ar­gued that pro­hi­bi­tion­ist drug poli­cies and prac­tices have failed to achieve the aims of drug con­ven­tions of get­ting rid of drug use, and have rather spawned crim­i­nal gangs who drive on the ex­or­bi­tant prof­its to be made in the il­le­gal drugs mar­ket.

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