By Gaby Ndongo
Wits has prohibited the cultivation, usage or possession of cannabis on all its campuses, as stated in a recent email from the institution to internal stakeholders last week Tuesday.
This follows the ruling on 18 September from the Constitutional Court (ConCourt) that decriminalised the possession, usage and cultivation of cannabis in a private space by an adult person.
Nonetheless, “the use, including smoking, of cannabis in public or in the presence of children or in the presence of non-consenting adults is illegal,” read the email from Wits.
“The ruling is not prescriptive, and the University retains the right to regulate activities within its precincts,” according to the email. Wits further wrote that its legal advisors have tentatively reflected on the ruling and the institution will not change its rules on cannabis “in light of this partial relaxation of the law”.
According to Wits Students’ Code of Conduct, cannabis amongst others as “a substance that alters behaviour” remains prohibited, except when “prescribed for that student by a registered health professional”.
To further clarify, the institution said, “no part of the precincts of the University may be considered ‘private’ or a ‘private place’ for purposes of the use, possession or cultivation of cannabis”.
The University, as reported by Wits Vuvuzela in September, awaited to consult its respective stakeholders before commenting on the matter. Particularly, how the Court’s decision will be applicable in its campuses. Parliament was given 24 months since the ruling to amend relevant sections of both the Drugs Act and the Medicines Act.
“Wits staff and students have been knowing for many years that students use it [cannabis] on campus,” said a Wits student, who is a cannabis user and did not want to be identified. “They are just doing it for PR (public relations) to show and stand for justice even though SA (South Africa) is seen as criminalised by overseas countries,” he added.
One of the institution’s former students, *Sipho who is currently a dealer of cannabis on-campus said that the University is familiar with an on-campus area, referred to as Jamaica, commonly used for smoking. The last time that he was caught, the University’s Protection Services held him for a while and confiscated his ‘goods’.
He added to say that him and his fellow colleagues will continue to utilise cannabis on- and off-campus because, “We were never given permission in the first place, so who says we need permission now”.
The case is different in other institutions as the country’s first smoke-free campus at Stellenbosch University’s Tygerberg campus will not allow for the smoking of any (e-) hookah pipes, cigarettes and smokeless tobacco products at the institution from 2019.
“There will be no (smoking) designated areas on campus. Research has shown that campuses with full smoke-free policies have more success with adherence than campuses where smoking is allowed in certain areas,” said Prof Nico Gey van Pittius, vice dean of research at the University’s Faculty of Medicine and Health Sciences, when speaking to Wits Vuvuzela.
Stellenbosch will implement the regulation based on issuing of warnings that will then lead to actions taken against the individual who does not prescribe to this rule.
Deputy Chief Justice Raymond Zondo ruling, however, did not provide the specifics of what the limit will be and the term ‘private’ regarding the place one can consume the herb.
“I can’t think there is one readily available in law that could apply,” Wits University associate professor, advocate James Grant, told The Citizen. “If you’re out of your home, is a public toilet a private place? I don’t know. What is private, what if you have visitors, it’s not private.”
“The other issue is that Zondo reversed the Western Cape High Court ruling which declared the purchase of cannabis constitutionally invalid,” Grant said.
Wits students: ConCourt ruling undemocratic, shifting attention from paramount issues and relegating cultural beliefs
“There is no such as private space. . . the guys who are saying so are those who own private spaces,” said Sipho. According to him, the majority of those who own land in South Africa are whites and so, “they want more freedom to grow, purchase and consume the herb”.
Although such statements may be considered as racist, *Thabang – who is an International Relations postgraduate from Wits, an on-campus dealer and desires nothing more but enjoying the fact that he has made Wits his home – said, “he [Sipho] is racist in a racist world that was created by white people . . . therefore, he is simply reacting to racism.”
He asked: “How can a victim of racism be racist?”
The very same racism, he said, has led to the downfall of most blacks as “we cannot promote our well-being because we are resisting the heavy burden of dealing with racism daily which does not make it possible for us to uplift ourselves,” Thabang explained.
Although ConCourt decriminalising private cultivation of the herb does not sit well with Sipho, who maintains that the issue will then be the land to grow it, Thabang also finds it problematic.
“The majority of black people don’t have private spaces and so weed is not for them . . . This weed even if it’s legalised it’s only in the benefits of the white . . . the judgement is not democratic because it alienates the majority [blacks] . . . it applies to people with land,” said Thabang.
“We sell weed here and most of the people who buy it are white people,” he added.
“We must stop being manipulated by the manipulators,” Sipho said when commenting about the framings of topics that are appealing to the current hegemony of whites in the country.
Sipho argues that the ConCourt ruling has bought the attention of people who were not concerned about cannabis and shifted it from much more serious matters. “Everyone must just chill and concern on far more great issues like suicide . . . rape of children and mothers,” which he said weed does not cause.
“It’s for a living and chilling and if the whole world smoke, they’ll understand,” he explained. According to him, the mainstream media gave the ruling more attention than it deserved: “I’ll expect that only from Daily Sun and not the whole country.”
Sipho maintains that, “Weed is not an issue just a tissue”.
Dr Jan Chabalala, former president of The South African Society of Psychiatrists when speaking to Cape Talk about cannabis, said it serves as gateway to other substances and those countries which have decriminalised it face an increase in mental health problems.
Cannabis forms part of several African cultures, including the Rastafarian culture which is commonly attributed as being part of Jamaica, but finds its origin and practice in Ethiopia.
To Sipho, cannabis is undoubtedly African and ‘holy’. Therefore, the ruling, “It’s to undermine our cultural beliefs and why not ask a question of should we believe in Jesus Christ,” he asked.
The use of substance, drug or alcohol is not a problem in whites house, said Thabang. This is evident as “alcohol has been normalised in white people’s houses”. TOJ
Reporting by Gaby Ndongo; Editing by Kupakwashe Kambasha
Feature image: The University of the Witwatersrand’s logo as seen contiguous to one of its gate at Braamfontein on Friday, 26th Oct. 2018.
Image courtesy to Gaby Ndongo
*The names used are not the actual names of the sources to avoid any form of response to these individuals.