Updated 10 April 2015

Mystery bankie at cannabis roundtable explained

The mystery of the small zip lock bag containing what looked like three dagga seeds left on everybody's seat at a conference on medicinal cannabis use, has been solved.

Johannesburg - The mystery of the small zip lock bag containing what looked like three dagga seeds left on everybody's seat at a conference on medicinal cannabis use, was solved on Thursday.

"It was a physical demonstration. I put it there so that people could grow it and see it as just a bush,'' said Andre du Plessis of the Cannabis Working Group, who will make a presentation to delegates at the conference arranged by the Department of Social Development and the Central Drug Agency (CDA).

Delegates included the Deputy Minister of Social Development Hendrietta Bogopane-Zulu.

Read: Mystery bankie at cannabis conference

The small plastic bag was placed on every delegate's seat, and at first glance appeared to be a conference handout, along with the hotel-branded pens and notebooks.

"Just grow it and see what happens,'' said one delegate.

Conference organisers and delegates were quizzed, and claimed to have no knowledge of the packet, or its origins.

‘Now everyone can be arrested’

Later, one of the organisers brought Du Plessis to News24 and said: "This is the man who put the packet there."

Du Plessis, who wants the drug decriminalised, and lobbies for regulated adult use said: ''Now everybody in the room can be arrested for possession.''

Read: Is there a place for dagga in medicine?

He said many of the people working on policy papers on whether it should be decriminalised, or allowed for medicinal use, did not even know what it looked like.

''We are coming up against people who have no experience with it, who have not tried it. All the knowledge they have gleaned is from reading. It is not first-hand."

He said that it was completely illegal in South Africa to possess or use dagga.

His group has made presentations to the CDA and the department of social development on the complex decriminalisation conundrum, and was pleased that there seemed to finally be some action towards proper discussion.

National discussion

Meanwhile, as the conference wore on, some of the seed packets were removed from handbags and placed back on the table, to lie amongst the conference mints and jugs of cordials.

The purpose of the conference was to start a national discussion on whether dagga for medicinal use should be legalised.

This was after Inkatha Freedom Party MP Mario Oriani-Ambrosini submitted the private members bill to Parliament - the medicines innovation bill - to legalise dagga for medical use when he had terminal lung cancer. He committed suicide in the final stages of his disease.

Health economist Dr Andrew Scheibe said it was important that South Africa had enough information on the subject ready when it made its presentation at the United Nations General Assembly Special Session on Drug Use in 2016.

While the subject may cause titters among some, one after the other presenters spoke of the socio-economic and health complexities of formulating a policy around legalising dagga so that its component ingredients can be used to benefit conditions such as migraine, cancer, and pain.

Also read:

When it is OK to give children medical pot

Casual marijuana use linked to changes in brain

Legalising marijuana cuts drug overdose deaths


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