No War on Drugs
The Central Drug Authority (CDA) is a statutory body that advises government on drug policies and strategies. There are better approaches to solving the problem than any failed war on drugs and the criminalisation and incarceration of users and addicted people. We state this clearly in the National Drug Master Plan 2019 – 2024 (NDMP) which was launched on 26 June 2020. (a copy is available on request).
What Edwin Cameron mentions is what the CDA has achieved in the NDMP. In developing the NDMP the CDA adopted a new strategy. For the first time we engaged in a consultative process with people with Substance use disorders (SUD). Those people who use drugs (PWUD) and inject drugs (PWID). The findings, used together with the latest research on treatment options for people with SUD, ensured that the proposals and plans were aligned and all inclusive. One of the Seven Pillars on the NDMP is the reduction of the bio-socio-economic impact of SUD and related illnesses on the South African Population. (Harm reduction)
In order to ensure harmonisation and enforcement of policies and laws, the CDA further consulted with the Justice cluster and the National Prosecuting Authority to facilitate effective governance of the alcohol, tobacco and other drugs supply chain (supply reduction). The consultations included the Departments of Social Development and Health to improve recreational facilities and diversion programs to prevent populations from becoming substance dependant. (Demand reduction). Substitution therapy is recommended and implemented with methadone made available for treatment. Applying the recognised triangle model of Agent, Host and Environment is helpful in building skills development strategies and involves studying cause and effect approaches. The model of Treatment, Cessation, Maintenance and Reintegration is used and repeated where necessary.
Edwin Cameron says that it is never too late for us to learn. Our maxim is rather that it is never too soon to learn. Cameron hasn’t recognised that we have indeed learned, investigated and consulted and have applied what knowledge we garnered, as stated above and in the NDMP.
The CDA adopted the concept in 2015 that the outdated demeaning terms such as junkie, coke-head, alcoholic, addict and other insulting names should no longer exist. Addiction is now regarded as ‘A recurring chronic disease of the brain which is treatable but not curable’. The CDA recognises the changing landscape and stated its position on cannabis in 2015. This was three years prior to the Constitutional Court Ruling.
First, data on smoking cannabis indicates that this practice is unhealthy; it is linked to cardiovascular and respiratory disorders, as well as to cognitive impairment and mental disorders.
Second, given the significant public health problem represented by cannabis, particularly highly potent cannabis, its use should be prevented, and its continued use treated, using evidence-based approaches.
Third, components of cannabis have been suggested effective in a few medical conditions such as refractory seizures, and access to medical marijuana may therefore be needed.
Fourth, cannabis is safer than alcohol and many other substances and policy regarding cannabis should reflect this key point.
This position was confirmed, expanded on and published in the SA Medical Journal in June 2016. (Vol. 106. No. 6 page 579)
It is imperative that Parliament finalises their current work on amending certain sections of the Drugs and Drug Trafficking Act 140 of 1992, this month. The Constitutional Court ruling of Sept 2018 stipulated that changes must be made within two years. If Parliament fails to complete the legislative process and ensure that the President signs the amendments into law, then chaos is likely to reign.
It remains important that we pursue all the avenues open to us in order to achieve our objectives of Harm reduction, Demand reduction and Supply reduction. One of the avenues which must be investigated is the model successfully adopted by Portugal in the decriminalisation of drug use (as mentioned by Edwin Cameron). This recommendation was table by ExCo member Peter Ucko (Chairman of Communications and Marketing) and supported with further recommendations by David Bayever (CDA Chairman), in 2014. No progress was made and efforts of the CDA were hampered by bureaucratic processes, lack of commitment within the department and lack of funding. As a result many people whose lives might have been saved, have died. Ghana was the first African country to introduce a similar model.
There are two major solutions to this problem. Most importantly the separating on the Central Drug Authority from administrative control within the DSD and its establishment as a separate independent entity, and full funding to cover all the activities are the responsibility of the CDA. The establishment of the CDA was first recommended by independent consultants Deloitte and Touche in July 2010. Proposed amendments to the current Act started in 2017, and at this time it seems unlikely that amendments to, or the introduction of a replacement Act, will be complete before the end of 2021. Speed is of the essence. To address all the severe drug problems which we face and to answer the many questions raised in the joint meeting of the Portfolio Committees on Social Development and Health in order to save lives, requires quick and decisive actions by the legislators.
For more Information contact:
David Bayever: Chairman – Central Drug Authority
Peter Ucko: ExCo Member & Chairman CDA Communications and Marketing
Linton Mchunu : Acting Director General DSD