19 min read

Police's "cannabis obsession" to the detriment of all in South Africa, incl rhino's and wildlife

For the last three weeks or so, the South African Police Services (SAPS) have been fixated with spraying the country's Eastern Cape dagga (cannabis) plantations as part of a campaign which they describe as "nipping the problem in the bud."

Three USA funded squirrel helicopters belonging to the SA police's Air Wing Unit ready to poison the land The reality of the situation is that the SAPS have been acting in a grossly irresponsible manner. They have been poisoning the land and its people while wasting both the tax payer's money and their resources. Their ongoing obsession with the elimination of dagga from the streets is a frivolous exercise and their persecution of impoverished rural subsistence farmers trying desperately to scrape together a living makes a mockery of the term Ubuntu. It is reminiscent of an apartheid mentality and clearly shows that our police haven't the foggiest clue as to where their priorities lie. Their actions are to the detriment of all in South Africa, including the wildlife. Since this is the case, it also becomes evident that whoever is in charge of authorizing this wasteful expenditure is incompetent at their job and should be replaced.

To begin, the police are using two predominant herbicides. These are Kilo Max and RoundUp. Both contain the active ingredient Glyphosate. Although the intention is to kill the cannabis plants with these chemicals, the police are inadvertently creating far bigger problems for themselves. With its use in agriculture, weed resistance to Glycophate becomes an issue and is being increasingly reported all over the world. The effects of Glycophate on both humans as well as the environment cannot be understated and should be of real concern to anyone who is capable of mental process.

Herbicides containing Glycophate kill off broad leaved plants and grasses. As the police helicopters fly around spraying these toxic chemical mixtures, many of the common vegetable crops, certain shrubs and most trees that get indiscriminately infected along with the dagga will be eliminated too. This leaves the topsoil exposed and, without plant cover, massive soil erosion takes place. Without plant roots to bond the soil and absorb rainwater, runoff from the surrounding hills can even lead to devastating floods. The rural subsistence farmers who rely on both their vegetable crops to survive as well as their dagga crops to make ends meet are now left without food or income. Their only option remaining is to turn to a life of serious crime; crime that more often than not is accompanied by violence.

Police helicopters flying over rural subsistence farmlands after spraying the countryside with toxic chemicals

When using Glysophate, the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) mandates the wearing of protective clothing. The EPA also instructs users not to re-enter treated fields for at least 4 hours and warns against any inhalation of the product. In 2002 the European Commission concluded that there is equivocal evidence suggesting a relationship between glyphosate exposure during pregnancy and cardiovascular malformations. However, witnesses have confirmed reports of SAPS helicopters spraying both livestock and people. These reports, from the pilots themselves, make mention of entire villages on their knees beseeching the police not to spray. Another even more heartrending story tells of police in helicopters deliberately spraying an old woman who hobbled into her fields while waving a white flag, begging for their mercy and reprieve. Could the police be any more fascist if they tried?

If one looks at a historical timeline it will be seen that cannabis has been smoked in Africa for thousands of years. It has been bartered and traded for centuries. In fact, one of the theories as to why Zulu king Dingaan murdered early pioneer Piet Retief is because of cannabis. Upon the successful return of the king's stolen cattle, Dingaan rewarded the Retief and his boers by presenting them with an amount of the herb. The boers were not happy with the quantity and demanded more. An argument broke out which led to a fight. Dingaan yelled `Bulalani abatagati' (kill the wizards) and the rest is history.

The complete banning of cannabis in South Africa happened as recently as 1928; a mere three years after Afrikaans became recognized as an official language. While it may have been a prohibited substance to the average citizen, its use among migrant mine workers was secretly encouraged by the Apartheid regime. Studies showed that workers who had smoked a small quantity proved to be more productive when working in the mines. With SA under international boycotts at the time, gold is what kept the country going. The government needed that gold to stave off bankruptcy and so turned a blind eye.

Mine workers in South Africa have been found to be more productive after smoking cannabis

Cannabis is not a drug any more than cigarettes are. It is certainly far less addictive than tobacco and has been proven to be less harmful than alcohol. It's prohibition has been heavily criticized by countless respected members of society and numerous business leaders. These include the likes of Louis Armstrong and Henry Ford, the latter who went so far as to produce a car made almost entirely of cannabis in the 1940's. So why is it illegal?

Universally, the banning of cannabis began with racism and oppression. The indigenous people's rights to smoke it were trampled on by invading colonialists who were ignorant and indeed fearful of its effects. In order to show their supremacy over the locals they began victimizing anyone who smoked it. This racism can be seen when South Africa became the first country in the world to criminalize cannabis. Prior to the complete ban that happened in 1928, Indians were prohibited from smoking dope as far back as 1870. The law was not applicable to all, just the Indians.

Another reason cannabis is banned is to protect the corporate profits of the timber, cotton and tobacco industries. Cannabis plants produce large amounts of excellent fiber. Material made from hemp fiber competes more than favourably with its cotton counterparts. Cannabis fibers also produce a better quality paper than timber. Unlike tobacco, a crop which requires extensive industrial machinery to deliver the final product, a single cannabis plant grown in the backyard under the most basic conditions can provide for a happy smoke. This makes it difficult for government to control and subsequently to tax, a point that the tobacco industry is quick to mention every time any government considers decriminalization.

Irresponsible tabloid journalism, where facts on cannabis were badly misrepresented, if not completely distorted, only served to entrench negative attitudes. Greedy politicians hungry for power capitalized on public fears and misconceptions in order to further their careers, while the balance was left up to ignorant, incompetent and corrupt legislators to make a harmless, useful and common weed illegal.

These are the only reasons why cannabis is a prohibited substance. Not because it is harmful. It isn't. Neither is it a "gateway drug" and parents desperate to find a scapegoat on which to blame their child's drug addictions should rather look at their own failed parenting skills or point fingers at the tobacco companies, because cigarettes are the leading drug of choice to be experimented with first by most teenagers, not cannabis.

Cannabis is deeply ingrained in all of Africa's cultures and traditions. It is used by both sexes from all races and across all age groups. Members of every profession smoke it, including upstanding citizens who contribute meaningfully to society. In fact ONE THIRD of middle class South Africans smoke cannabis. South Africa's renowned cricket player Herschelle Gibbs got himself into trouble for smoking it. Music legend Johnny Clegg smoked cannabis. Even former President Nelson Mandela admitted to smoking weed and, unlike Bill Clinton, he inhaled.

Hundreds of South Africans gather to protest cannabis prohibition

Cannabis accounts for over 80% of police investigations in South Africa, leaving less than 20% of investigations dedicated to solving serious crimes such as murder, rape and hard narcotics. If legalized, just ONE YEAR of tax revenue could build 50 000 low cost houses, thus providing shelter and homes to thousands of destitute people. Keeping the herb illegal is simply ridiculous and amounts to a scandalous situation. Spraying it and poisoning the people in an attempt to get rid of it is, in my opinion, pathetic, costly and futile. It is a complete waste of time and money. The best the SAPS can hope to achieve from this inane exercise is to open doors for massive civil cases from people who have been poisoned as a result of their negligent actions. These cases could potentially bankrupt the SAPS.

It is high time the SAPS (and governments the world over) realized that cannabis is not going to go away. It has always been around and it is here to stay. A superfluous prohibition is not going to change people's attitudes towards it. Aside from being met with resistance, making cannabis illegal simply encourages its use; as more people discover that it is not as harmful as they were led to believe, so too will even more people give it a bash. This scenario can be likened to the failings of alcohol prohibition in the United States with which it shares so many similarities it is uncanny.

Speaking of the US, cannabis has been decriminalized in the state of Colorado. The following quote, taken from Forbes, reveals the financial success the move has proven to be.

It is a well-known fact that South Africa produces some of the best cannabis in the world. With hundreds of years worth of expertise to draw from, as well as having the ideal climate conditions for growing cannabis, our rural farmers are producing a level of quality that could command excellent prices from a very demanding international market. We should be promoting South African dagga as we promote our fine wines. We should patent the term "dagga" in the same way as the French have done with Champagne. This would create a wealth of job opportunities for our country which suffers from one of the highest unemployment rates in the world. Instead, our leaders continue to show an alarming lack of business savvy by sending in the cops to kill our cash crop. It doesn't make any sense!

Considering all of the above, for the SAPS to be wasting millions in resources and further damaging their already shoddy reputation is more than just lamentable; it is an absolute disgrace! The money being frittered away on their pointless obsession would be far better spent addressing real concerns. Helicopters could be deployed to protect our rhino from their current poaching crisis which has seen an escalation of incidents in excess of 9 000 percent since 2007. Manpower could be allocated towards attending to real issues of crime, for example getting serious narcotics off the streets or protecting our dwindling wildlife heritage from the onslaught of poachers.

Police helicopters would be far better employed protecting critically endangered rhino instead of harassing rural cannabis farmers

Sadly, it appears as if our police are too terrified to chase hardened criminals as a rhino poacher is far more likely to shoot at them than any impoverished South African subsistence farmer who grows weeds in order to scrounge a meager living for his family. They should be ashamed of themselves.

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