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Cannabis debate flares up South Africa

South Africa

A drug to some and an addiction to others, the consumption of cannabis has steered debate in South Africa, on whether it should be decriminalized.

Gerd Hermann has the drug grown in his backyard garden, well aware it is illegal in the country. But this does not prevent him from locally producing medicinal oil from cannabis, a valuable product sought by many with medical complications.

But with legal obstacles, conducting the activity has not been easy for the 49-year old.

“People are desperate. Then they call me, they ask me for help. I cannot tell them no. But on the other hand, it becomes difficult to help more and more people when it is illegal”, Hermann said.

Today, the product is consumed in hiding, even for therapeutic purposes.

The debate on legalising cannabis is lighting up South Africa, with its ban being challenged in the high court pic.twitter.com/4zpz9hY0WP

— AFP news agency (@AFP) August 10, 2017

A young boy suffering from the Costello syndrome, a rare disease that causes physical deformities and intellectual deficit takes the drug to relieve pain. For his mother, the miracle is in cannabis.

Her name withheld, she said, “it(cannabis) changed our lives. Thanks to the cannabis oil, I have a new child. Because of this syndrome, he is particularly prone to cancer. When you have a child with such health problems, you have to react. Today I am ready to take the risk because the life of my son depends on this oil”.

Many like this woman are advocating for the decriminalization of cannabis use, an idea that some anti-drug policy specialists have welcomed.

“It’s inevitable. There has to be a change. For the law today creates more problems than it solves. Decriminalization is self-evident, but legalization is another matter that needs to be considered even more seriously”, Shaun Shelly, a specialist in anti-drug policies.

The debate on the decriminalization of cannabis in South Africa started last March, when a regional court ruled its criminalization unconstitutional.

Parliament has two years to make a decision that would see cannabis products on shelves or banned and its consumption considered criminal.

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