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By Marizka Coetzer


Cosatu welcomes Cannabis for Private Purposes Bill

Cosatu spokesperson calls the bill a welcome step forward to decriminalise the use of dagga for private purposes.

It’s high time for private use of dagga to be legal, according to Congress of South African Trade Unions (Cosatu) acting national spokesperson and parliamentary coordinator Matthew Parks.

Parks was one of many people who welcomed the passing of the Cannabis for Private Purposes Bill by the National Council of Provinces on Wednesday.

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The Bill was approved by the National Assembly in November.

“This is a welcome step forward to decriminalise cannabis for private purposes as required by the Constitutional Court judgment finding the existing criminalisation of personal use to be unconstitutional,” he said.

But Urban Recovery founder Steven Smith said passing the Bill was foolish.

“We are bombarded daily with clients struggling with cannabis addiction. There is no such thing as responsible use. THC is extremely damaging to the psyche and one of the leading contributors to druginduced psychosis.”

Smith said passing the Bill would create a society of dumbed-down addicts. “Just yesterday, one of my childhood friends was found on the streets begging for food. He was extremely bright. Today he is a shell of his former self and still a cannabis user.

“Cannabis is more dangerous than alcohol in my opinion. It is thought of as a natural product and nonaddictive, which is not the case at all. Psychological dependence on THC is extremely damaging and users become obsessively compelled to use it.

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“There are so many studies relating to the increased risk of schizophrenia by 450%,” he said.

Smith said cannabis was also usually the gateway to harder drugs.

Parks said Cosatu supported the Bill because it provided a rational, legal framework for the private use of cannabis and would end the obligation for the police to arrest and imprison persons using cannabis in their homes and deflecting attention from serious crimes.

Criminologist Prof Jaco Barkhuizen said that constitutionally and legally speaking, it was high time the Cannabis Bill was signed into law by the president.

“The old mentality that cannabis is a gateway drug is a myth,” he said.

Legal expert Dr Llewelyn Curlewis said passing the Bill was a step in the right direction. “There were too many uncertainties about private use and cultivation to trade it.”

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