Traditional leaders from the amaMpondo nation and cannabis farmers in the Eastern Cape have rejected the Private Use Cannabis Bill. They are calling for a comprehensive consultation process that must also be extended to the indigenous cannabis farmers in deep rural areas.
The area known as Mpondoland is the cannabis belt of South Africa. Cultivating and selling cannabis provides a livelihood to many here.
Now they believe that the new bill threatens their only means of generating an income.
The economic benefit of cannabis:
amaMpondo King Zanozuko Sigcau says they were not consulted with regard to the Bill.
“There is this Bill and no one was consulted. So we feel like the government officials, especially the senior ones, should have come to me as well as to my people and unpack all this so that we know what it entails. So we cannot be able to comment on something that we do not know. We pledge the government to please bring officials so that they can unpack that and discuss it.”
Cannabis farmers says the Bill proposes that a household will only be allowed to have up to eight plants for private use.
“We have been planting cannabis in our fatherland here in Pondoland. Now there are restrictions that prohibit us from using and selling it. The restrictions seek to deprive us and enrich the rich,” says farmer Wonga Bolotina.
“It was better when the ganja was illegal, now we are told the ganja is legal but it is not. There is no way that I can plant four plants or twelve plants. There is no family that can survive by four to twelve plants. I am so worried about this Bill,” says another farmer, Bonke Mfanekiso.
Legalities of the sale of cannabis products:
Advocacy groups want the Bill to scrapped or the consultation process extended.
“The information was never sent by the same government to the people through the right channels where you send it to the areas where people are growing. You cannot send in the IT systems, you supposed to send it through the local municipality and the traditional leaders. People do not know about it. We are busy as an NGO; people do not know and the next thing you will find that when it is closed and passed into law, people will be arrested far more than the apartheid years,” says Mzimvubu Farmers Support Network’s, Thombela Zweni.
The cannabis farmers want the Bill to open more economic doors for them, and not one that will smother their business.
The deadline for public comment on the bill has been extended to the end of November.
Cannabis farmers, traditional leaders reject the Private Use Cannabis bill in the Eastern Cape: