Andrew Kathindi

The road to cannabis legalization in Namibia may be longer after the Ministry of Health and Social Services only received 56 submissions from consultations on the possibility of the regulation and controlled use of cannabis.

“We received in total about 70, but when we went through them, there were some repeats and submissions in one document, so when one removes the repeats and resubmissions, we ended up with 56,” Registrar of Medicine in the Health Ministry, Johannes Gaeseb said.

“We had questions in our public notice, so we’ll collate the answers to those questions and then make a submission to our Executive Director to make a proposal on the way forward to cannabis regulation in Namibia.”

Part of the ministry’s list of questions where whether Namibians were aware of any dangers or social evils associated with cannabis, or whether there were any benefits in its use.

Quizzed on whether the 56 submissions were a realistic reflection of the thoughts of the population and whether it is enough to take the matter to the next step, Gaeseb said, “It might not be. The notice period was short and some did ask for extensions, but we didn’t see any submissions thereafter.”

The deadline for submissions had been set at 22 November 2020. The Office of the Prime Minister, the Ministries of Justice, Home Affairs, Safety and Security and the Attorney General are part of the task force that have been considering the possible de-criminalizing cannabis since last year.

“For example, if the government follows the South African route that you can use cannabis for personal use, that will need consultations again, so we’ll have come up with draft legislation and send it out for comment which will probably take longer. But this depends on which direction we take anyway.”

Executive Director in the Ministry of Health, Ben Nangombe, who last year had hinted that it may be time for the policies currently regulating cannabis in Namibia to evolve, said that there was no date set on when the ministry will finalize all the information from the submissions, but that it was likely to be in the “next months”.

“The next step after that is to see whether the views will put us in a position to provide a draft to inform policy makers on the views of the public.”

Founder of Cannabis and Hemp Association of Namibia, Angela Prusa said the Health ministry should have cast a wider net in its request for submissions, which should have included vernacular languages and platforms outside social media to reach more people.

She further challenged government stop arresting those caught with cannabis while the matter of possible legalization is being discussed.

“The delay is negligence in my opinion on behalf of the Government. We are wasting precious time on a topic that has been in discussion with the Government for many years now. While I fully appreciate that a lot of research and discussion needs to be done around this topic, our country could have already engaged in creating and setting up a [viable] hemp industry. This industry will create opportunities for employment and new sectors to help the struggling economy especially in these times of COVID-19 and economic breakdown.”

She added, “We are also wasting time while many innocent people are still being criminalised and jailed.”

The Namibian Police confirmed that over N$27 million worth of cannabis was confiscated from October 2018 to April 2019.

Cannabis remains Namibia’s most popular drug.