By Our Agency
The government of South Africa was preoccupied with domestic political tensions and an international imperial war. As part of the British Empire, the Union of South Africa had to pass domestic legislation to comply with international treaties it was signatory to, either directly or indirectly.
They introduced the Opium and Other Habit-forming Drugs Bill to fall in line with international agreements signed at the “Hague in 1912”. The bill also included “cannabis and Indian hemp”. This was despite little justification that these were habit-forming drugs on par with opium. The bill built on smaller scale laws previously enacted in colonial Natal and the Cape Colony.
The second narrative was happening simultaneously. In July that year the S.S. Balmoral Castle set sail for London from the eastern Cape with 11 bags of dagga, as it is called in South Africa, in its hold for Dreyfus and Co Ltd. The Union government’s Department of Mines and Industries was keen on having the sample tested with a view to its potential development as a profitable economic plant for the international pharmaceutical market.
Whoever, such cleavages within the state show how the political impulses behind dagga criminalisation contradicted but also cohabited with the commercial pursuit of dagga as a lucrative global commodity.
In south Africa, the dagga promoters, in 1917, London’s Imperial Institute declared the Dreyfus samples chemically not on par with Indian-grown cannabis in the empire’s connected market.
But this did not deter the Department of Mines and Industries and the Union government’s Division of Botany in Pretoria. Both realised the need for more accurate and careful testing and standardisation of dagga in South Africa. They actively worked with settler farmers and trading companies to experiment on cannabis with the aim of developing an international commercial market.
The empire already connected South Africa to cities in Britain, India, Mauritius, and the wider Caribbean colonies. Since the Imperial Conference of 1907, British dominions and colonies had actively participated in creating markets for commodities produced within the empire. They did this by promoting them through Trades Commissioner’s Offices. By late 1917, the Trades Commissioner for South Africa was helping test samples and finding influential buyers in places like London.
Soon after, the Mines and Industries Department started helping businessmen seek out international paper manufacturers interested in the fibrous stalk of the cannabis plant. One was a farmer called E.D. Punter. Punter also wanted to grow the hemp plant for oil pressing and bird seed. His close work with the Industries Department earned the ire of the Department of Public Health, which in 1923 strongly reprimanded them for their efforts.
The law route
By 1923, debates around dagga had become highly racialised. Cannabis consumption had historically been described by white colonists as an immoral habit of African and Indian communities. In the years after Union, calls for prohibition of cannabis combined racist fears popular in the print media with policies meant to control cannabis-based livelihoods, medicine, and leisure.
This emboldened domestic criminal legislation as well as a push for global prohibition. On the international stage, the government of Jan Smuts urged international diplomats at the League of Nations in Geneva to consider including cannabis alongside opium in an updated international drugs convention.
In 1925, the original template for policing and suppressing cannabis production, consumption, and trade worldwide was agreed upon. Known as the Geneva Convention on dangerous drugs, it effectively fixed the entire cannabis plant as a subject of criminal law in domestic and international contexts. In one dramatic action, the deeply diverse forms and commodities of cannabis in Africa and Asia were effectively swept aside.
Even as Smuts’ government pursued international criminalisation, the Industries Department elicited private efforts to test the commodity’s prospects. Mr W. Perfect from Ladysmith in Natal urged the department to experiment with “insangu-based rope”. He hoped that hemp rope would be a great representation of the dominion at the 1924 British Empire Exhibition in London.
The ripples of this historical contradiction are worth revisiting as South Africa enters a new phase of regulation. In 2018 the country’s Constitutional Court passed a landmark judgment decriminalising cannabis consumption inside private dwellings. This paved the way for an estimated 900,000 farmers to cultivate cannabis licitly.
Pro legalisation voices have hailed the judgment as an important step. It challenged the racial history of dagga legislation that was rooted in colonial systems of prejudice. But 100 years later, small-scale farmers and consumers remain vulnerable to the international cannabis market unless they’re adequately protected. Specific cultural knowledge of cannabis must also be factored into policy because cannabis has diverse symbolic meanings and styles of cultivation and use.
CANNABIS IN UGANDA
Uganda will officially start exporting medicinal marijuana in March this year 2020 with the first batches going to Malta and Israel.
The medical marijuana comes courtesy of a partnership between Hemp Uganda and an Israeli firm, Together Pharma. The partnership first began growing medical marijuana at a factory in Hima Town in 2014.
The factory sits on 12.5 acres of land and houses five greenhouses of marijuana weed and a processing factory.
Benjamin Cadet, Director Industrial Hemp Uganda Limited, said the facility will produce several different varieties of medical marijuana for treatment of a number of health issues including skin ailments, chronic pain, epilepsy and cancer.
SOME OF THE COMPANIES INCLUDE;
Natgro Phama (U) Ltd, Medraw (U) SMC Ltd, Urban Properties (U) Ltd, Prime Ranchers, Silver Seeds (U) Ltd, Dave and Dave Group, Seven Blades, Cannops Africa, Quest Worths International Group, Premier Hemp, Sativa Agro-tech Ltd, Zeus Agro Ltd and Owesia (U) Ltd, PREMIER HEMP of “Ruparelia Group, through Rosebud, is the leading grower and exporter of flowers and is looking to extend its agricultural prowess to growing marijuana through its subsidiary Premier Hemp