The Swazi government is fighting calls against the former director of the Swaziland Examinations Council, Dr. Ben Dlamini, to legalise marijuana. The challenge has been dragged to the high court, where proponents want more than legalising cannabis, but that it be traded too.
He also has called upon the Minister for Commerce, Industry and Trade to grant him a 10-year exclusive licence to grow dagga, alleging in the past 5,000 years, no one has died of cannabis anywhere in the world.
Dr. Dlamini wants the High Court to help him get an order that will make government allow him to operate a cannabis processing factory in the country, giving respondents until December 17, 2010 to file responding papers.
He wants to set up a national cannabis processing and marketing company, with all growers in the country supplying his factory. He says his factory will then solicit orders from local and international pharmacies.
Dlamini adds he would involve international research institutions to conduct research on processed and raw cannabis.
He has cited as respondents, the Attorney General (AG), Minister of Health, Commissioners of Police and that of Correctional Services, as well as the Director of Public Prosecutions. He has also requested that they add the Minister of Commerce, Trade and Industry. The respondents are yet to file their responding papers.
He challenges the AG to amend all laws that criminalise cannabis, but only render illegal the extracts of the plant that contains tetrahydrocarbinol, which is the active ingredient that makes a user high.
Holding a Doctorate in Education, Bachelor of Science degree with a major in Chemistry, he argues cannabis is not a drug and is not addictive. He also claims it is not intoxicating nor is it poisonous.
“This necessitated experiments that were conducted with subjects who smoked cannabis for a given time under controlled conditions, A cannabis smoker will not be bothered, while a cigarette smoker will not allow that to happen,” reads his affidavit, making reference to a number of United States and Asia findings.
He also claims that cannabis influences a person to sleep, but is never intoxicated and ‘unable to know what he is doing’ and that it is safer than alcohol and tobacco.
“It is smoked. It is eaten and it is used as an antidote for cases of poisoning. The question of the risk element attached to the use of cannabis will continue to be a matter for the experts, but irrespective of the answer, there exists no just reason to punish cannabis users or those who grow it,” states his affidavit.
Dlamini is challenging Section 151 (1) of the Opium and Habit Forming Drugs Act of 1922.
The section stipulates that, “In this Act, unless the context otherwise requires, habit forming drug or drugs means and includes the following as herein defined – cannabis, dagga, instangu, Indian hemp, under whatever name it may be described, known, sold, supplied or otherwise referred to or dealt with, whether the whole or any portion of the plant and all extracts, tinctures or preparations or admixtures thereon.”
“Unlike alcohol, cannabis users do not lose self control, massive amounts just send them to sleep. Intoxicants are potentially toxic, that is poisonous, with a certain overodse level often dependent on the individual.
“There has never been a single death directly linked to cannabis use in 5,000 years of history with hundreds of millions of users in the world. There is no toxic amount of cannabis. No animal has died of an overdose of cannabis,” he alleges.
He argues that the statement ‘all extracts, tinctures or preparations or admixtures,’ does not apply to what is happening in the country, reported the Swaziland Times.
“This is what is done to cannabis in Asia and certainly when the law is amended, these extracts should be proscribed such concentrating THC to form Hashish,” read his papers.
The matter is still pending before the High Court.
By Mtheto Lungu