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Grow Dagga in your backyard

Can you grow dagga in your backyard?

Will relaxed cannabis rules impact estates?

By Esther de Villiers

, |

Can you grow dagga in your backyard?

Will relaxed cannabis rules impact estates?

By Esther de Villiers

, |

3 min read

Cannabis is in the spotlight yet again as cultivation regulations are revised by South African lawmakers. For growers, possibilities to plant weed for personal and medicinal use seem legion. But will relaxed rules have a bearing on estate managers and residents, and what are sentiments on this practice within estate gardens?

We’ve come a long way

When hearing of major drug busts on arterial routes countrywide, one imagines kilos of cocaine, tik or mandrax being taken off the streets. But marijuana, be it a few bankies or many bales, is often the target of vigilant law enforcers.

Even though South African legislation on the use and cultivation of cannabis is progressive, large-scale growers and vendors still get convicted, commensurate with the amount confiscated.

We have come a long way since students were thrown in the back of a police van and incarcerated for days when toking on a spliff in public. But this does not mean the general feeling of wellbeing associated with the ‘holy herb’ permeates society at large, or inhabitants of residential estates.

Let it grow

Chatting to Garden Route weed growers provides some insight on public perception. None of these interviewees reside in gated estates; rather, they provided insight on their plantations in George residential gardens, or smallholdings along the Route’s many forested enclaves.
One particularly prolific cannabis cultivator, who nurtures plants ‘for personal use’ in a tent in his Knysna backyard, did not care to be quoted even under a pseudonym, which points to a lingering fear of persecution.

George local Etienne van den Bank lives with his young family in a small residential estate with no communal gardens. ‘I’ve been nurturing several trees at a time for years, harvesting enough for personal use and to assist friends with medicinal marijuana requirements.

‘My neighbour, an SAPS sergeant, often comments positively on the beautiful abundance of my crop. So I don’t expect a police raid any day soon.’

Don’t take me to your dealer

During a mid-January broadcast of Marijuana SA’s weekly YouTube episode, MSA presenters interviewed Stefan Bezuidenhout of SJF Attorneys, which specialises in cannabis laws and is one of the first firms fully dedicated to guiding and representing cultivators of cannabis and its many by-products.

When talking about new cannabis laws expected this year, MSA is hopeful that ‘big changes are coming’. These include the issuing of Section 21 licences, and for the herb to be recognised as a registered medicine.

‘I’m often asked how many plants individuals are allowed to cultivate, but this remains a vague concept. The trend is to grow as many as possible, as long as you’re able to prove that it’s not for sale,’ says Bezuidenhout.

‘Clarity is also often sought after an arrest and confiscation of plants or equipment, people wanting to ascertain their constitutional rights. They may come off scot-free, but then struggle to get confiscated equipment returned. This gear can be expensive to replace, and carefully nurtured trees being destroyed is simply heartbreaking – the loss of a genetic worked on for years.’

He warns that a higher schedule offence pertains to anyone charged with dealing in cannabis. ‘Even our groundbreaking constitution doesn’t mean everyone has a clear idea of what is allowed. Until the legislation is in pen on paper, it’s crucial to keep the conversation going.’

Doing it right

Today, pioneers like DankiPa Eco Estate, located eight minutes from the centre of Plettenberg Bay, collaborate with national and US-based organisations to promote cannabis cultivation. Apart from a lodge, weed gardens and a Cape yellow wood conservation area, the estate’s resident CannaClub supports growers to further both the cannabis movement and African agricultural awakening.

Willem Jacobs, CEO of Kingswood Golf Estate in George says he doesn’t have a specific opinion on cannabis cultivation within the grounds, and that marijuana doesn’t feature on the Kingswood plant list.

‘It’s a subject worth discussing at forthcoming HOA meetings. I doubt there are grounds for acting against home owners who grow the legally allowed four plants per person in their gardens.

‘Cultivating cannabis in a greenhouse is not possible at Kingswood, though, as our constitution does not allow for such structures. But this is an interesting subject to explore for estates of all types.’

Visit cheebaafrica.com and thecannaclub.co.za to find out more about courses and guidelines for growers.

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