23 April 2019

Namibia: Marijuana Is Our Birth Right - Cannabis Activists

MORE than 40 cannabis users took to the streets in Windhoek on Good Friday to demand the legalisation of cannabis in Namibia, saying it was their birth right.

Clad in Rastafarian colours or fatigues, the mostly dreadlocked group, including Ganja Users of Namibia (Gun), the Rastafarian United Front (RUF) and other supporters, marched from Independence Avenue on the B1 road to Ausspannplatz to call for the repeal of the Abuse of Dependence-Producing Substances and Rehabilitation Centres Act 41 of 1971, which they said is outdated.

The National Institute on Drug Abuse defines cannabis, also known as marijuana, as weed, herb, pot, grass, bud, ganja, Mary Jane, and a vast number of other slang terms, as a greenish-gray mixture of the dried flowers of cannabis sativa.

Although an effective treatment for a wide assortment of ailments, cannabis can be harmful to one's health.

With chants of Rastafari affirmations and reggae anthems, the march was the second of its kind calling for the decriminalisation of what they called the "green gold", with a similar march having taken place at the coastal town of Swakopmund last Thursday.

Despite some onlookers expressing their disapproval of the group's march, the determined marchers were adamant that the law "needs to be seriously revisited, questioned and challenged" as it violates their human rights, inclusive of the right to freedom of culture and religion, amongst others.

Contents of the petition themed 'Repeal Obsolete Apartheid Law' read by Gun's general, Borro Ndungula, implored the parliament to either repeal or amend the law which currently restricts cannabis users in Namibia from freely using or possessing it.

Additionally, the petition asked that penalties for cannabis offenders be dropped, and that the police should stop arresting those found in possession of cannabis.

Ndungula further stated that it was frustrating for cannabis users to be placed in the same box with criminals, and that they should not have to hide in the bushes to smoke.

"Since December 2018, the Namibian government, through the parliament, has removed some of the obsolete apartheid laws from the Namibian legal system after 28 years of independence. Encouraged by that action, we the undersigned Namibian citizens led by Ganja Users of Namibia (Gun) and Rastafari United Front (Ruf), would like to implore the National Assembly as the branch of government that makes new laws and changes old laws," an excerpt of the petition stated.

Forty-eight-year-old Karel Engelbrecht, who joined the march from Aus in the //Kharas region, said "ganja is a birth right, so legalise it, don't criticise it. It is healing of da nation. Set I and I free (sic)," and added "Rastafari, one love."

Another participant of the march, Heita Paulus, is a music teacher at a local school, and said the march was important as it would help with raising awareness of the benefits of cannabis, which tend to be overlooked. "We want to hear that voice of a rasta man," he stated.

Meanwhile, Gun president Brian "B Jah" Jaftha assured the marchers that the petition will be handed to National Assembly speaker Peter Katjavivi today (Tuesday), and that they would resort to dragging the government to court should there be no response.

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