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Organic, Vegan, Non-GMO? Applying Nutritional Terms to Cannabis Products

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Nutritional terms are something we see every day, so much so that they’ve almost begun blending into the background. Organic, non-GMO, vegan, all-natural, raw, superfood, sustainable, and so on, are words you see and a large percentage of labels on consumable products. We tend to think about food in relation to these terms, but they’re prevalent in the cannabis industry as well. For example, organic weed products can sell for two or three times more than conventional items, but the process of creating organic, non-GMO, vegan weed products is complicated and costly.  

To stay current on everything important happening in the industry, subscribe to the THC Weekly Newsletter. Also, it’ll get you premium access to deals on cannabis flowers, vapes, edibles, and much more! We’ve also got standout offers on cannabinoids, like HHC-O, Delta 8Delta 9 THCDelta-10 THCTHCOTHCVTHCP HHC, which won’t kill your bank account. Head over to our “Best-of” lists to get these deals, and remember to enjoy responsibly!


Common nutritional terms and their meanings  

Let’s start with a few basic terms you may hear when discussing food and other comparable products. The original “organic ideal” was to eat only local, seasonal, sustainable produce, but all these terms have different meanings (although a lot of overlap exists) and sometimes it can be a challenge to incorporate all these components into the final product. The term organic refers to the production of consumable goods without using fertilizers, pesticides, or other artificial agents. Any exceptions are listed in the National List of Allowed and Prohibited Substances.  

Local refers to foods grown within a certain radius that are consumed relatively close to where it was produced. The exact range varies from a few miles to about one hundred, depending on the product and local regulations. Seasonal means the food was grown “in season” and eaten when ripe, not imported produce. Sustainable, in the broadest sense, it refers to how well something maintains itself over a longer period of time. In food, it means the produce was grown in a way that does not deplete the earth around it of natural resources.  

Then we have non-GMO, which can get a bit complicated in terms of application. “GMO” stands for Genetically Modified Organism, and is an umbrella term used to describe any plant, animal, or other organism whose genetic material has been alerted in some unnatural way. Non-GMO implies the final product does not have any ingredients that were modified in a laboratory, but roughly 70% of products on supermarket shelves are, in fact, GMO.  

Vegan is self-explanatory but for the sake of being thorough, vegan items are made without using any type of animal byproducts or animal testing. The cutoff on what exactly is vegan and what isn’t can vary for some people. For example, some vegans still consume honey while many do not. Same with eggs. Some have certain parameters for when they’ll consume such products. For another example, I have chickens at home, 8 hens, no roosters. So, all the eggs produced by my hens are non-fertilized, not viable, and would go to waste if not consumed by someone.  

Similarly, raw food is completely unprocessed, similar to non-GMO, and “natural” has been deemed by the FDA to mean that “nothing artificial or synthetic (including all color additives regardless of source) has been included in, or has been added to, a food that would not normally be expected to be in that food.”  

Organic, Non-GMO, vegan cannabis products? 

An upcoming movement within the cannabis industry, #whatsinmyweed focuses on the connection between shopping for cannabis vs shopping for food items. In both the cannabis and food industries, consumers are spending 60% to 109% more on organic, non-GMO, raw, natural, (healthy) options. It makes sense to see this crossover considering both cannabis and food are consumable products, and if we’re promoting cannabis as a substance for wellness, it makes no sense for it to be loaded with pesticides, heavy metals, mold, and other contaminants that are detrimental to human health.  

Longtime cannabis industry operators can vouch for this, stating that craft organic options are selling for more, and at a much higher rate, than bottom shelf strains. This can be seen in the B2B sector as well, with cultivators struggling to sell bottom and mid-shelf flower. The price for that quality, in some markets, has dropped to as low as $100-$200 per pound, and that’s IF a buyer is even found.  

“The organic side is really coming into its own,” said Liz Geisleman, CEO of 710 Spirits, a Denver company that sells organic and conventional solvents to extractors nationwide. “Organic cannabis is coming fast and furious.” 

And it’s not just artisan buds that are fetching those higher prices. Edibles, topicals, and many other product types are switching to healthier alternatives as well. These days, you’re more like to be able to find gummies that are flavored with natural fruit juices rather than artificial flavorings, or sweetened with real cane sugar as opposed to corn syrup. Obviously a gummy, is a snack and not something we can consider a health food, but eliminating bad ingredients, even if it’s only little by little, does still make a difference in the long run.  

“Being organic, it’s a bit of a slower approach,” said David Bernard, vice president for growing operations for The Green Organic Dutchman in Mississauga, Ontario. “But once the systems are in place, you have a really healthy method of producing cannabis, and as the years go by, the margins increase.” 

Production standards  

When it comes to creating organic cannabis products, naturally, it all starts with the way the plant is grown. But with no true production standards in place, and very little in the way of organic certifications, what exactly constitutes “organic cannabis”? It’s important to note that just because cannabis products can’t get a UDSA organic-certified label, business owners can still choose to abide by those standards in their cultivation and production practices. The problem at that point, is trusting whether the companies advertising “organic” products are self-regulating and actually committing to those standards. 

Luckily, there are some exceptions for this lack of oversight. Organic recognition for organic marijuana (more than 0.3% THC) from the USDA is obviously not going to happen until its federally legal, but hemp (less than 0.3% THC) is legal as per the 2018 farm bill, and can in fact, sport the organic label. Additionally, at the state level, we are seeing more of a push for organic standards in cannabis production, as demand continues to grow, and local governments try to thwart the still-thriving black markets.  

Take California, for instance, where the state’s Department of Food and Agriculture (CDFA) recently released information for the new OCal Program, which is meant to establish regulatory framework to create “comparable-to-organic” standards in the cannabis industry. In Maine, the Organic Farmer & Gardener Association has launched a Certified Clean Cannabis Program (MC3) that would offer third-party verification for cannabis companies who claim their products are organic. Georgia (medical), Washington, and Massachusetts are working it implement their own standards and regulations as well.  

Organic extractions 

The next step in the creation of organic cannabis products, beyond flower, is extraction and processing. Certain extraction methods, careless manufacturing, or even using the wrong cleaning agents can ruin a product and strip of its organic label.  

cbd extraction
Photo courtesy of Green Mill Supercritical

Choosing an extraction method is key, and hydrocarbons like butane are out of the question. So that leaves: CO2, organic ethanol, or solventless (such as cold-press extraction); all of which have their ups and downs. If we take solventless extraction, those methods are intrinsically organic, but they’re slow and it’s difficult to scale how much you’re going to get at the end.  

Organic ethanol is another option, but not a very cost-effective one. Organic ethanol can cost anywhere from two to ten times as much conventional ethanol, so that’s not an option for man companies. “It’s not really cost effective at this point to use organic ethanol,” said Smoke Wallin of Vertical Cos., a multistate marijuana operator in Agoura Hills, California, and CEO of its hemp-derived CBD spinoff, Vertical Wellness. “The market is there,” he said. “The future play for processing is going to be significant growth on the organic side.” 

Wallin’s company, and many others, are opting for CO2 extraction simply because it’s the most affordable option that still falls under the umbrella of organic. During CO2 extractions, pressurized carbon dioxide is used to draw out naturally occurring phytocannabinoids and terpenes from raw cannabis flower.  

Final thoughts 

The way it’s looking now, the future of cannabis is in the high-end, artisan-style, organic, non-GMO, natural products. This pattern has already been seen in the food industry. Since the USDA began requiring companies to print nutrition facts on their products, consumers became increasingly conscientious of what they were putting in their bodies; it’s no surprise this mindset eventually spilled over into other industries, like cannabis.

Welcome to the site! Thanks for making it to CBDtesters.co, the top internet spot offering up fully-rounded independent news covering the growing cannabis and psychedelics industries. Stop by frequently to stay up-to-date on these dynamic industries, and make sure to sign up to The THC Weekly Newsletter, to ensure you’re never late on getting the news.





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Cannabis Legalization Leads to Less Driving Accidents, Says Study

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The governments of legalized states are doing everything they can to cash in on new cannabis legalization policies, and this includes THC driving laws to collect traffic fines. Now, new research sheds light on the smear campaign that smoking weed leads to more traffic accidents. As it turns out, it’s the opposite, and states with medical cannabis legalization measures, have shown to have less driving accidents and lower insurance rates, according to a new study.

A new study shows how a medical cannabis legalization doesn’t lead to more driving accidents, as shown through insurance premiums. We cover all kinds of stories in the cannabis and psychedelics fields of today. Keep up with industry news by subscribing to the THC Weekly Newsletter, and get some cool product promotions, along with your news updates. We’ve also got tons of offers for cannabinoid products like HHC-O, Delta-8, Delta-9 THC, Delta-10 THC, THCO, THCV, THCP, and HHC. The world of cannabis products is huge, and everyone should buy the products they are most comfortable with using.


Study about cannabis legalization and driving accidents

On June 12th, a study was published called Medical cannabis and automobile accidents: Evidence from auto insurance, in the publication Health Economics. The study investigates cannabis legalization on driving accidents and safety. In order to do this, study investigators researched auto insurance premiums between the years 2014 – 2019, right down to the zip code.

The study results found that in states with a medical cannabis legalization, premiums decreased by an average of $22 per year after the legalization measure passed. This decrease is more substantial in areas close to dispensaries, and is more noticeable in places where drunk driving was more common prior to legalization. According to the authors, “we find premium reductions are larger in states with greater patient enrollment and in states that allow smoking.”

Study investigators estimated “that existing legalization has reduced health expenditures related to auto accidents by almost $820 million per year with the potential for a further $350 million reduction if legalized nationally.” This is quite different from the standard – yet always statistically unsupported line – that driving while high is dangerous.

cannabis legalization driving accidents

Their final conclusion? “Our results indicate that the legalization and access to medical cannabis positively impacts auto safety.” They also explain why other comparable research turned up different results of either no difference, or a negative difference. “Other literature on this topic (which mainly finds null or negative results) has been limited by the reliance on data that only involve fatal accidents. We conduct a more comprehensive analysis by focusing on the direct effect on auto insurance prices.”

What does other recent research say?

The study investigators in the auto insurance premiums study make a good point. Not all studies ask the right questions. Like this one, Medical Marijuana Laws and Driving Under the Influence of Marijuana and Alcohol, which examined the number of people caught driving under the influence of cannabis. According to the authors, “We assessed the possible association of MML and individual-level driving under the influence of cannabis (DUIC), and also under the influence of alcohol (DUIA).”

The study examined three other cross-sectional studies: The National Longitudinal Alcohol Epidemiologic Survey from 1991–1992, the National Epidemiologic Survey on Alcohol and Related Conditions from 2001–2002, and the NESARC-III from 2012–2013. This included a total number of 118,497 participants, although they were all participants in other studies, and all information comes from other investigations.

The study found that between 1991–1992 to 2012–2013, the prevalence of driving under the influence of cannabis went up to 1.92% from 1.02%. Higher amounts were found in states with medical marijuana programs. Study authors concluded, “Medical marijuana law enactment in US states appears to have been associated with increased prevalence of driving under the influence of cannabis, but not alcohol.”

This is great, but an increase in the amount of antidepressants on the market also logically means an increase in the number of people who will drive with those drugs in their systems, whether its ever tested for or not. Yet no one is worried whether this increase has a negative effect on traffic accidents, since it doesn’t come up as a big threat. Increased rates of driving under the influence of cannabis mean nothing if there isn’t an increase in driving issues, which the first study implies there are not. This study never even asked the question of whether it’s a problem.

In this report by the CDC in 2019, it says that in a four-year-period, the number of people 16-25 willing to admit to driving on weed, went up by 47%, from 2014-2018. This equals a 12 million person increase. To give an idea of how this compares to alcohol, in 2018 20.8 million people claimed to have driven after drinking. While this was used to seemingly raise fear, the agency was not able to provide accident numbers for cannabis.

drunk driving

However, this study published in the publication Addiction, did. Called Traffic fatalities within US states that have legalized recreational cannabis sales and their neighbours, it investigated crash fatalities in Colorado, Washington, and Oregon. It found there was only a one-per-million rise in road deaths the year after legalization, and that a year after that, the numbers returned to previous levels. As the results weren’t statistically significant to begin with, and didn’t remain, this doesn’t say much for there being an issue with driving while on weed, or for government agencies or publications that say there is, especially when they don’t provide backing for their arguments.

So why are there drugged driving laws for cannabis?

This is a great question. If cannabis isn’t resulting in a greater number of accidents, which can be seen in lowered premiums rather than raised premiums, why does anyone get punished for it? We all understand why drunk drivers get their licenses taken away, and why so much is done to prevent them. They cause real damage. Damage that is so obvious, that we all know about it. We all know someone who died in a drunk driving accident, or a friend of a friend who did.

Very few people have a story about their friend, or a friend of a friend, who died in an accident due to weed. Does this mean it’s impossible? No, not at all, and there should be some actual stories out there. I, personally, can’t drive when stoned, but I seem to be one of the few people I know who has this issue. The thing is, being stoned isn’t the same as being drunk.

Drunk people are known for not being able to consider circumstances or consequences, and therefore making bad decisions. Stoners, not so much. I’m not good at driving stoned, so I don’t do it, because even when stoned, I’m not so blown I can’t make the right decision. Conversely, I have had to have keys taken away from me when drunk, since in that state I indeed thought it was okay to drive. I would never approve of doing that while sober, or stoned.

Yet the fear of drunk drivers is instilled in so many of us, that we desperately want to know that something is being done to help the situation. And for good reason. In the US alone, someone dies from a drunk driving related incident every 50 minutes, with an average of 29 deaths a day. 10,497 people died in 2016 from drunk driving accidents, which accounted for 28% of all road deaths that year. Of the total road deaths for 2016, 1,233 were children, and 17% died due to drunk drivers.

Regardless of legalizations, weed has been a popular drug in the US for a hundred years, and no similar statistics exist on driving under the influence of cannabis. This study from 2010 called The Effect of Cannabis Compared with Alcohol on Driving, investigated cannabis and alcohol driving incidences, and came to the conclusion “Epidemiological studies have been inconclusive regarding whether cannabis use causes an increased risk of accidents; in contrast, unanimity exists that alcohol use increases crash risk.” That says a lot.

driving accident

Drugged driving laws

Even if a cannabis legalization doesn’t lead to more driving accidents (or a negligible rise), this hasn’t stopped several states from making specific legislation to try to catch high drivers. Why would they do this with no official information stating an increased danger? My guess is to collect fines.

While most states have some form of drugged driving laws to cover driving while on drugs other than alcohol (not a bad idea considering how many people are on drugs like opioids and Ambien), some specifically target THC, and give blood THC tests.

Washington has a max THC level for drivers, which is five nanograms per milliliter, or higher, of THC in the blood. Both Colorado and Montana uphold the same standard. Nevada is even more intense, and considers drivers to be under the influence if they have two nanograms of THC in their bloodstream, or five nanograms of metabolite. This measurement of THC in the blood is done by looking at nanograms per milliliter of blood.

States like California, Oregon, Illinois, Michigan, Alaska, Maine, and Arizona make the judgement based on impairment of the driver, and not specific amounts of THC in the system. And states like Massachusetts have zero-tolerance policies for any drugs while driving. Not to beat a dead horse, but plenty of people in that state are driving around with antidepressants in their systems, and antidepressants are psychotropic medications that specifically have effects on neurological activity, and come with all kinds of warnings. Yet once again, no one has an issue with that. Zero-tolerance seems to be zero-tolerance, only when its convenient for lawmakers.

Conclusion

The weirdest part of all this, is that legalizations have created the logical fallacy that no one drove while high before legalizations happened, and that this whole issue only exists because of legalizations. This makes no sense. People have been driving high as long as being high has been a thing. Trying to change the narrative to collect fines, is a pretty low endeavor for any government that does it. Luckily, the research sets the record straight.

For those looking to travel with weed, but are unsure if this is a good idea, check out this guide for a range of tips and smart travel options.

Welcome to the site! We appreciate you joining us at Cannadelics.com (formerly known as CBDtesters.co), a wholly independent publication focusing on comprehensive coverage of the cannabis and psychedelics landscapes. Read-thru the site regularly to stay on top of industry changes, and check out The THC Weekly Newsletter, for regular updates on everything happening.





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The Laser Bong You Never Knew You Needed

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The technology of smoking has improved greatly over the last couple of decades. First it was vaping, and the ability to no longer burn the weed. Now it’s the new laser bong, and a technology that takes the butane out of smoking.

The laser bong is the newest in weed-smoking technology, and it’s a pretty cool looking piece of equipment. If you’re a person who needs the next thing now, you definitely need this bong! We report on tons of stories in the cannabis and psychedelic industries, which you can play along with by subscribing to the THC Weekly Newsletter. This also gets you prime access to promotions on all kinds of items like vapes, edibles, and paraphernalia, along with premium deals on cannabinoid compounds like HHC-O, Delta 8, Delta 9 THC, Delta-10 THC, THCO, THCV, THCP, and HHC. As always, we do remind customers not to purchase any product they are uncomfortable with using.


What’s a regular bong?

A bong, or waterpipe, is a smoking device that uses water to filter the smoke. These devices come in different sizes, and shapes, and though they sometimes look very different, the functional design in the same.

A bong is made of a water chamber, which is connected to a mouthpiece in one place, and a bowl in another, and sometimes a carb hole as well, although this is not necessary if the bowl is removable and able to work as a carb. The point of this function is to let in air to clear the accumulated smoke in the water chamber. The chamber needs to be air and watertight when the user puts their mouth to the mouthpiece. The weed is put in the bowl and lit on fire.

When the weed is lit, the user inhales through the mouthpiece, pulling in air through the bowl, through the water chamber, and into the user’s mouth. If there’s a carb hole, this must be covered during inhale, or it won’t work. Once the user has pulled as much air as they wish, they can let go of the carb, or remove the bowl, in order to clear out the chamber of built-up smoke.

bong

Bongs are used for smoking, but the same structure is also used to vaporize, via dabbing. Dabs are used as a way to vaporize concentrates, and use the same method of heating the concentrate, and then sucking the vapor through the water. The water works as a filter, trapping the heavier particles in the smoke/vapor, which makes for a smoother hit. The water also cools the smoke down, making it less harsh on the throat. Some bong use another piece called a percolator, which is a twisty glass structure, also meant to cool the air down further. It’s common as well to put ice cubes in the neck of a bong, or directly in the water chamber, for cooling purposes.

Because of the water filtration, bongs might be slightly less dangerous than waterless pipes or joints, but there are things to consider. The weed is still being lit on fire and breathed in, which like it or not, is smoke inhalation, the basis for smoking issues. Plus, the weed is lit with a lighter, which also means the user is breathing in butane fumes as well. This matters in that sometimes a flame is held for many seconds when smoking a bong, in order to burn the herbs adequately.

What is a laser bong?

Let’s be honest, just the term ‘laser bong’ sounds all futuristic and cool, and the best part is… it’s real. Smoking technology has certainly reached a pinnacle at this point in history, as its now possible to light your weed with lasers. How effective is this new method? And what’s the difference in terms of what you inhale?

The company Hitoki is the first to make this bong a reality, called the Hitoki Trident. The Trident is a cylindrical bong of mostly black airplane grade aluminum, with an air hose about 1/4-1/3 of the way up from the bottom. Above the air hose is a laser chamber that shines blue when in use, and below it is the water chamber that the smoke gets pulled through. The laser it emits is a 445 nm class 4 blue laser, hence the blue of the chamber. The water hose is either an actual hose – like what’s used for a hookah, but a bit thicker, or a more stable plastic hose-like mouthpiece, more akin to a standard bong.

The benefit of the laser is that it can heat to a very precise temperature, and doesn’t have to go as high as a lighter. It’s used to burn either dry herb or concentrates, and is very efficient, allowing for approximately 280 uses off of each charge of its battery. Something that can be done easily with its included USB charger. In all other ways beside the laser as a heat source, the Trident functions like any other bong.

In order to use it, the bong comes apart for loading the weed. It has two distinct pieces that lock back together with an FDA compliant interlock system. It’s about as simple as loading it, locking it, and lighting it, which is done with the push of a button. The laser has three power settings, with the lowest temperature for buds, the mid for dense buds, and the highest for concentrates. It also comes equipped with a carb button for cleaning out the smoke chamber.

laser bong

If you’re thinking this is a lot for a bong, you’re right! These bongs are so high scale, they even come in gold or rose gold, for those who want the extra fancy version. Even the regular version will set you back a bit, starting $499,99. Hitoki marks the first company to employ this laser technology for bongs, but it likely opened a can of worms that tons of companies will get in on. Hitoki boasts the cleanest smoking experience using the Trident, and that the smoke is the most flavorful possible.

Benefits of a laser bong

It’s not exactly a cheap piece of equipment, and therefore won’t be available to everyone. It can be expected that upcoming competitor models will retain the same high price, although if its out long enough, there’s surely a budget model somewhere in the future. For now, however, if you want this new smoking gadget, you’ll have to pay out. So, if the cost is so high, what are the benefits of using a laser bong?

For one thing, there’s no lighter, and no other material being burned in order to light the herb. Back a few years ago I had a boyfriend who bought a hemp wick (think hemp twine), which was also meant to clean out the lighting aspect. Instead of lighting the bong with a lighter, the lighter lit the wick, which was then used to light the weed. Honestly, it worked okay, but I found it difficult to use. The laser bong does remove the inhalation of any extra materials, although there isn’t much information on whether it itself creates byproducts which might not be desirable to inhale.

The laser is supposedly more efficient than using a lighter, burning the herb evenly, and requiring less weed to do the same job. Going through weed quickly is often an issue, particularly when a device does not heat evenly, or simply requires a large amount for a not comparable hit. Anything that can elongate the amount of time weed lasts, certainly provides a positive benefit. How much it does in this department, has not been made clear.

It’s super cool. I don’t know how much this counts as a benefit, but in our world of constantly one-upping each other, and showing off our newest expenditures to those who want what we have, this bong certainly fits in line. Sure, it’s the mansion that’s probably too big, or the eighth car we could do without, but who doesn’t want a huge mansion, or to be able to afford eight cars? If the use of a laser does indeed make it a safer experience, then that is a massive benefit. Either way, in terms of ‘cool’ and ‘status’, this smoking device is the Rolls Royce of bongs.

It’s advertised that this laser bong uses lower temperatures to heat, and that this affects the overall feel. While this would have no effect on the negatives of combustion, it might make a difference in how a user feels the smoke in their body. Lower temperatures can mean a more comfortable time, and less coughing, as the heat can bother the throat and lungs. This is why bongs are often kitted out with extra measures to cool down the smoke.

laser

There is one massive thing to remember. If you’re looking at a laser bong as a healthier smoking option, this isn’t quite true. The biggest issue with smoking – and it doesn’t matter what’s smoked – is that something is being lit on fire and inhaled, and this is not changed through this particular design. It eliminates the added on butane fumes, that’s for sure, and therefore might net a smoke that tastes better and is slightly cleaner, but it won’t take out the overall dangers of smoking, not even by a little.

Quite honestly, in terms of actual benefits, there are some, but they’re not extensive. It does seem to promote a sleek, upscale, cleaner smoking experience, and the removal of butane is certainly helpful, along with the ability to make weed go further. Luckily, cool and futuristic are also benefits in our modern world, so if you’re looking for the newest breakthrough in smoking technology, and the most hip way to do it, this laser bong is definitely for you.

Conclusion

It should be interesting to watch other comparable models by other companies come out. With enough competition the design will surely be improved on, and with enough time, we can learn the true benefits (and detractions) of using laser bongs. For now, Hitoki certainly hit the nail on the head of cool, and I fully admit, I want to try this bong! Review upcoming.

Hey guys, thanks for stopping by! Welcome to CBDtesters.co / Cannadelics.com, a top web spot, offering well-rounded coverage of the cannabis and psychedelics landscape. Read-thru the site whenever possible to stay informed on the motions of these quickly-morphing industries, and check out The THC Weekly Newsletter, so you’re on top of everything big going on.





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South Africa Still Working On New Cannabis Bill

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Back in 2020, I reported on South Africa’s legal limbo after a Constitutional Court ruling made cannabis prohibition illegal. What exactly this means for the country has been undefined for the past few years, and South Africa is still working to finalize its Cannabis for Private Purposes bill.

South Africa should have a new cannabis bill soon, which is great, because we’ve been waiting for it since 2018! We’re a publication that focuses on independent coverage of the cannabis and psychedelics fields. You can join in by signing up for the THC Weekly Newsletter, and also get prime access to tons of deals on vapes, edibles and smoking devices. We’ve also got standout offers on cannabinoids, like HHC-O, Delta 8Delta 9 THCDelta-10 THCTHCOTHCVTHCP HHC, which won’t kill your bank account. Head over to our “Best-of” lists to get these deals, and remember to enjoy responsibly!


How it started

Much like many other countries, South Africa instituted laws against cannabis in the early 1920’s. First in 1922 with the Customs and Excise Duty Act, which classified cannabis as a habit-forming drug, and then in 1925 by including cannabis in the country’s Dangerous Drugs list, putting it with the likes of cocaine and opium. Further to that, it was criminalized 100% in 1928 with the Medical, Dental, and Pharmacy Act, which is where it stayed all the way until 2018.

On March 31st, 2017, a judge ruled that it was not constitutional to bar cultivation and use of cannabis for private use. This was done with a justification that this is a non-justifiable personal privacy infringement. A previous case on the matter brought by Gareth Prince about 15 years earlier, focused on the idea of infringement of religious freedoms, but this case was unsuccessful at changing anything.

The 2017 case didn’t include religious aspects, but focused on the privacy rights – or inalienable rights – of the people. The right to privacy is guaranteed under section 14 of the Bill of Rights of South Africa. It states that every individual has the right to lead a private life without government interference. The judge in the ruling made this statement:

South Africa cannabis law

“A very high level of protection is given to the individual’s intimate personal sphere of life and the maintenance of its basic preconditions and there is a final untouchable sphere of human freedom that is beyond interference from any public authority. So much so that, in regard to this most intimate core of privacy, no justifiable limitation thereof can take place… This inviolable core is left behind once an individual enters into relationships with persons outside this closest intimate sphere; the individual’s activities then acquire a social dimension and the right of privacy in this context becomes subject to limitation.”

However, as this was a regular court, in order for this ruling to have full effect, it needed to be confirmed by the Constitutional Court. When expected appeals to the decision came in, this was done. In September 2018, the Constitutional Court made a ruling on the matter which confirmed the ruling of the lower court, setting it as law. Some of the included points of the ruling, were the following:

  • Cannabis use is permitted by an adult when done in private.
  • Cannabis use is not permitted around children, or anyone who does not consent.
  • Cannabis is not permitted in public, or for anything beyond personal use.
  • Cannabis is permitted for private cultivation so long as its for personal use.

If all this sounds familiar, it’s because it’s a similar scenario to what’s going on in Mexico, where a court ruling created legalization case law, but which still requires a government bill for all particulars. In both cases, it was the use of personal sovereignty laws which led the way to make these changes. In South Africa, the Court ruling set a legal precedent, but it didn’t make clear the specifics of what is allowed. Since that time, draft legislation has come up, but nothing has been passed.

Cannabis for Private Purposes bill

After what has been a very long wait, the government of South Africa is getting closer to releasing formal legislation, in the form of the Cannabis for Private Purposes bill. This bill has been circulating since 2020, and has been updated throughout that time based on the comments of different people and organizations. Current additions were approved by the National Assembly on March 31st of this year, meaning the bill is now in a second round of public meetings.

Some additional points within the South Africa cannabis bill include:

  • Recreational cannabis commercial activities.
  • Rules for cultivation, possession and supply of cannabis for members of organizations specifically related to religious and cultural purposes.
  • Individual privacy rights for adults to use cannabis for medical purposes.
South African cannabis

It also defines what a ‘private space’ is. The definition includes: a building, house, room, shed, hut, tent, mobile home, caravan, boat, or any part of one of the above. Essentially, anything that can be closed (or is away from other things), and where the public doesn’t have direct access, is a private space.

Since its still open for public comment, nothing is a done deal yet. The latest to give comments is the country’s largest trade federation, the Congress of South African Trade Unions (Cosatu), which supports the legalization of the plant on all fronts. It submit its comments at the end of May. Though the organization supports legalization measures, it said the current bill is ‘unrealistically bureaucratic and cumbersome’, and needs a lot of reworking.

In fact, it went as far as to say that the legislation is way too restrictive, and doesn’t decriminalize the plant as much as it should. This is highlighted by how the organization sees the issue of cannabis regulation for religious purposes, and its dislike of rules created to monitor how people use cannabis in general.

Regardless of edits, none of this means that South Africa will have a regulated market. That’s one of the big differences between how South Africa and Mexico are handling things. Mexico is expected to have a regulated recreational market, whereas South Africa is legalizing private use and cultivation of the plant only.

How personal sovereignty leads to cannabis rights

The legal change in South Africa was a result of a court case that relied on personal sovereignty laws, which are a part of inalienable rights. Inalienable rights are rights that every human has, and that a government can’t take away. They relate to natural rights, or what some would call God-given rights, and they are not to be altered by governmental laws. Personal sovereignty is the same as self-ownership. This is considered an individual’s right for bodily integrity, and to be the sole controller of themselves. Personal sovereignty, is an inalienable right.

Three countries now have updated cannabis laws due to court cases involving personal sovereignty rights. South Africa’s Constitutional Court case was in 2018, making the 2017 verdict an official one in terms of the country’s laws. Though it doesn’t seek to set up a regulated market, it will allow for the possession, use, and cultivation of the plant privately.

inalienable rights

2018 was a popular year for inalienable rights to kick in. Over in Georgia, another Constitutional Court case ended with a verdict that overturned prohibition. The Court ruled that it’s not constitutional to punish the use of cannabis, as it poses no threat to others. It said a punishment for cannabis use is restrictive of personal freedoms, so long as no 3td party is affected. However, Georgia never mentioned needing a bill to further clarify anything, and the country now resides in a weird gray area, where cultivation and buying/selling are illegal, but possession and use are totally cool.

The other example is Mexico, which became the 4th legalized country officially in 2021, when the Supreme Court dropped laws of prohibition for private use, upon the government simply not doing its job. It unofficially became the 4th country back in 2018, when the Supreme Court ruled on the last of five consecutive cases in favor of legal cannabis use and cultivation. It said, as personally developed human beings, we must be allowed to pick our own recreational activities without the government interfering. When the government did not turn in a corresponding bill on time, the Supreme Court went ahead and dropped prohibition laws a year ago. We’re still waiting on the full bill to begin the official sales market.

Conclusion

Truth is, none of the three countries to make legal updates based on constitutional courts, have totally gotten it together yet. Georgia is in a strange legal limbo, and Mexico and South Africa are both waiting on specific bills to pass. We certainly have to wait a bit longer on all fronts, but it looks like South Africa is getting that much closer to a formal legalization/decriminalization with updates to its cannabis draft bill. The question now is, which will be first, South Africa or Mexico?

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