An argument for cannabis

03 September 2020 | Opinion

Windhoek • Angela Prusa

2020 is slowly coming to an end. As I reflect on the Cannabis Journey in Namibia, I want to share the following: I am done trying to convince people and government of the potential of cannabis, which I have been doing the last five years. I have extensively informed government, law makers and the public on the benefits of cannabis for our health, economy, communities, nature and our industries.
However, I have realised that government will only utilise this plant to enrich themselves and increase their earning potential by issuing licences to rich Namibians and foreign individuals with the right connections and enough money.
After years of advocacy work, I have seen CBD be put into a schedule 5 alongside hard drugs that kill (like heroin and tic), while codeine – another deadly drug that has hundreds of addicts relapsing in Namibia – has been made freely available to be bought again. This clearly demonstrates that those who make the laws do so without the clarity or guidance of experts, research or evidence but rather on a copy-paste basis.
I am done trying to convince people of the benefits of cannabis or that it is not as harmful as it is made out to be. There are thousands of studies and 50 years of research and anecdotal evidence.
What I do know and what I stand by is that it is my human right to consume cannabis just as much as it is the next person's right to smoke a cigarette or drink alcohol. You might not like it or agree with it, but you must tolerate it.
This is democracy in action.
The law that prohibits the use and trade of cannabis is an outdated, apartheid law that should have been brought under scrutiny a long time ago. The war on drugs is the biggest failure of our modern times and has so far claimed more innocent lives than any other war.
I have been risking my freedom to help people heal their ailments with cannabis. Yet thousands of cannabis users in Namibia are scared to openly admit that they use this plant for fear of stigma, exclusion, arrest and judgement.

‘Unconstitutional’
In my opinion the prohibition of cannabis and other drugs is unconstitutional.
Prohibition of drugs does not deter people from taking drugs nor does it protect them. It turns non-violent humans exercising their human rights into criminals.
The war on drugs and locking people up for using drugs is futile. Decades of this war on drugs has proven that it does not work. While the number of people using drugs is increasing and humans will continue to alter our state of consciousness, no laws or prison sentences will deter us from doing so.
However, we need to reduce the harm of drugs and addiction. The only way we can do this is by legalising and regulating drugs and by looking at the greater issues of trauma that causes people to become addicts in the first place.
We need to tackle drugs as a social health issue, not a criminal issue.

Arguments
I will leave you with three arguments as to why cannabis should be legalised in Namibia.
1. The outdated law of 1971 was handed down from an apartheid government which put this law in place as a direct assault to control Black African communities and Indian slaves in the apartheid regime of South Africa.
2. It is my argument that cannabis should be treated according to its harm effect which in the ‘2010 Study by the Research Centre Drug Science on Substances and their Harms’, put cannabis at a lower risk to users and society compared to alcohol and tobacco, and also lower than methamphetamines, which are present in many of our over the counter prescription drugs.
3. The current law prohibiting cannabis in Namibia is in direct violation of our human rights, which have been set out by the UN Human Rights Charter. No other law is supposed to interfere with our human right to health, to privacy, to practice our religion and to maintain our dignity, not even a drug law.
The Namibian Constitution has the right to privacy in its Bill of Rights and we believe every person has the right over their own body. This means we have a right to practice our spirituality and religion and to use our sacred sacrament without fear of being prosecuted for it, as well as to choose which medicine we decide to heal ourselves with, without being criminalised for our choices.

Bodily systems
Every human and animal has within their body a system that regulates all functions and keeps us in balance. This system is called the ‘endocannabinoid’ system.
Endocannabinoids are produced by our body and we have cannabinoids produced by the cannabis plant. Together, these work like a lock and key with the system in our body once we consume cannabis.
By prohibiting cannabis, our fundamental right to have control over our health and general welfare is being not only denied, but violated and disregarded. We have a right to dignity. Being criminalised and locked-up for the consumption of a substance in the privacy of our own home and deemed as criminals, being put in prisons with rapists and murderers, takes away our dignity and leaves much bigger damage and trauma in communities and society than cannabis as a substance can ever cause.
*Angela Prusa is a Namibian cannabis activist and founder of the Cannabis and Hemp Association of Namibia.

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