Namibia and Cannabis – a different take

DECRIMINALISATION is a word I am realizing the importance of more and more.

Attending numerous cannabis and hemp seminars and conferences here in the United Kingdom (UK) has given me more insight and confirmed my very strong belief that the current status quo of legalisation of cannabis the world over is still a very unjust system built on exclusion and racism.

States within the USA and various countries, like Canada, are being hailed for their progressiveness in the industry and for leading the way in legalization, and it’s easy to celebrate a long overdue law change, but the reality is that while millions of dollars are being made already by white men in suits, people of colour are still sitting in jails serving their sentences for cannabis-related crimes.

Even within Namibia, in our own country hundreds of people are incarcerated, for absolute misdemeanours, for trying to heal themselves or others. This is causing huge social family separation issues, not to even mention the millions it costs taxpayers to keep these people in jail for extended periods of time.

There is no room in this new and booming industry, it seems already hijacked by the big corporates and big pharma, and for those who have spent years working with this plant, shipping and smuggling oils across continents to help sick people and risking their freedoms daily to help communities cope with chronic illnesses, as well as helping those that the medical world and doctors had given up on them and sent home to die without any help.

In the eyes of those that control this industry now these people are still criminals and will be forced to stay in the underground, because of lack of money and connection to compete in this new market.

We have the opportunity to create a blueprint of legalisation with a difference: we are a country with a small population and vast space to grow and the added bonus of a harbour for shipping produce. We can show the world how our cannabis and hemp industry can truly empower local communities and how we can grow cannabis and hemp naturally in a permaculture way, amongst food and herbs and other necessary crops, instead of the detrimental monoculture mass production that is becoming the norm these days.

We don’t need big foreign investment to come steal our resources again, but we can create a good quality product for own use and export. We need seeds and water and land and a centralised lab and processing hub. We need some days of education, and with this we can create a new industry.

The knowledge is there, even the medicinal knowledge, our elders and our indigenous communities know what to do with this plant medicinally. This is not a drug we are talking about here, this is a plant: this is food essentially.

Most of the countries within Africa are selling out the opportunity for true change and economic boost to the highest bidder. We see this in our neighbouring countries of Zimbabwe and Lesotho, for example, where a license to grow costs hundreds of thousands of dollars, only affordable by foreign interests or those already rich and connected enough within the country.

Most of these operations grow thousands of cannabis plants but are mainly automated and so the employment rate of locals is minimal. The plant gets exported to Canada or the US or Germany and those in government have made a nice amount of money; the foreign firms will profit from this but the local people will still be arrested for growing cannabis illegally, because they cannot afford to compete or become legal and there is no economic growth.

This blueprint we are seeing is a colonial blueprint steeped in privilege and will only benefit the few when countries sell their permits to the highest bidders, as there is zero trickle-down effect to the general population at all.

The government needs to include us in their panels and in their decision making, we are the people with the knowledge regarding this plant

I have set up the Association for Cannabis and Hemp Namibia to be a central point for education and preservation of indigenous knowledge systems, support for cooperatives and community grow set-ups and legal advice.

It is an Association that aims to challenge the colonial norm and fight for a blueprint of legalisation that will have decriminalization at its core and that will demand an African-led industry for all Africans. An organization that will support and work alongside RUF and GUN and that will represent the plant and the people.

-Angela Prusa

Cannabis and hemp products are readily sold in South African retailers in Namibia, though the law still punishes people if found in possession of cannabis products.

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