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Dr Ben calls aLL dagga dealers to a meeting

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MBABANE – A two-day dagga workshop has been organised by outspoken former Registrar of the Examinations Council, Dr Ben Dlamini.

Dlamini is also hoping to generate an income of E10 million through engaging 125 000 farmers in the ploughing of cannabis, popularly known as dagga.

He stated this in a report titled ‘Economic Recovery Cannabis Strategy’ he is hoping to hand over to the police and the King’s Office very soon.

The workshop, according to Dr Dlamini, will be held at the Mavuso Trade Centre on Saturday November 26, 2011.

He said it is aimed at educating interested people on cannabis, a plant that is illegal in the country. "The workshop entails learning about cannabis and the laws surrounding its usage," he said.

Dr Dlamini is charging E100 per person for attending the workshop, which he said will cover topics like ‘Achievement Motivation’ and ‘Know your Cannabis – The good and the bad.’

Health Principal Secretary Stephen Shongwe said it is premature to discuss issues of cannabis in a positive manner because it is still regarded as illegal.

He said the ministry is currently relying on studies that have been done in other countries where the harm of cannabis has been clearly highlighted.

"The position we are at presently is that cannabis is harmful. Most of the benefits we have heard about are not conclusive yet," he said.

He said, as major stakeholders, they respect any person’s opinion and would also welcome a meeting with anyone who has ideas, but "at the moment we have these medico-legal issues surrounding the cannabis issue that we need to look into," he said.

Shongwe said he is aware that there are other studies that have been done that show different results, but said this was all dependant on the reliability of the particular study.

Police Public Relations Officer Superintendent Wendy Hleta said the police have no mandate and no discretion over dagga licensing.

She said all they do in the event a person is in possession of or is cultivating dagga without a licence is to arrest them.

"We are not lawmakers but we are enforcers of the laws that already exist," she said.

At the workshop, Superintendent Hleta warned people not to be misled. She said they were hopeful it had been organised for the right reasons. "We are hopeful it is for the benefit of the people and not otherwise," she said.

UN policy report on criminalisation, stigmatisation of people using dagga

MBABANE – The United Nations has issued a policy report recommending that countries end the criminalisation and stigmatisation of people who use drugs but do no harm to others.

"Our findings do not support claims that criminalisation reduces cannabis use and that decriminalisation increases cannabis use," reads the report.

The Global Commission on Drugs Policy report issued in June, 2011, in its executive summary states that, "The global war on drugs has failed, with devastating consequences for individuals and societies around the world."

Some of the recommendations apply specifically to cannabis, a plant popularly known as dagga.

In the report, the UN encourages experimentation by governments with models of legal regulation of drugs to ‘undermine the power of organised crime and safeguard the health and security of their citizens.’

The report is aimed at developing actionable, evidence-based recommendations for constructive legal and drug policy reforms, among other things.

"Begin the transformation of the global dug prohibition regime. Replace drug policies and strategies driven by ideology and political convenience with fiscally responsible policies and strategies grounded in science, health, security and human rights and adopt appropriate criteria for their evaluation," suggests the report.

Some of the observations are that arresting and incarcerating people involved at the lower end of the illegal drug market, such as farmers, couriers and sellers, has not reduced the availability of illicit drugs.

"It has filled prisons and destroyed lives and families. There appears to be almost no limit to the number of people willing to engage in such activities to better their lives, provide for their families or otherwise escape poverty," reads the report.

Among the 19 commissioners who formed the commission are former UN Secretary General Kofi Annan, Executive Director of the Global Fund to Fight Aids, TB and Malaria (France) and Greek Prime Minister George Papandreou.

Dagga activist Dr Ben Dlamini interprets the UN report as a declaration that the drug war is over and no one has to be arrested

Health Principal Secretary Stephen Shongwe said although he has not had time to go through the report, he was aware that it had been published.

He said it would be premature for him to discuss cannabis issues because of the medico-legal implications.

"I may say that it is advised to cross-check and verify authenticity of studies that have been done with regards to dagga so that we speak from an informed position," he said.

Dagga activists NORML in the country

MBABANE – Dagga activists from the National Organisation for Reform of Marijuana Laws (NORML) are in the country to network with locals interested in dagga.

Chris Jonsson and Bushy Williams arrived through the Ngwenya Border Gate yesterday to meet with Dr Ben Dlamini and other people.

They will be in the country for the next four days where they will also record a video with the interviewees.

Jonsson said they got to learn about Dr Dlamini through the media, and developed an interest hence their decision to request him to impart the knowledge he has about the cannabis issue.

case

Said Jonsson, "We have been following his court case and we felt we could share something with him because we also had a court case in South Africa recently where the ‘Dagga Couple’ won their case. We thought he is a wise old man and has a vast experience on issues both academically and otherwise."

Williams said he has released a movie titled ‘Reunion’ where the many uses of dagga are explicitly told.

He was also of the view that there are a lot of good things that people can benefit from dagga usage.

Jonsson said this is their first visit to Swaziland on the dagga mission. He said they will be moving on to Malawi and other African countries advocating for the legalisation of dagga.

 

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