Brits dagga shop raided, owner arrested

A Brits resident was arrested after the Hawks descended on a cannabis shop in Brits on Saturday and found over 500 kg of cannabis, a cannabis laboratory and various paraphernalia for processing cannabis products.

Russell de Beer (48), owner of the Canapax shop in Van Velden Street, appeared in the Brits Magistrates’ court on Monday, 11 November 2019 on charges for contravening the Medicine and Related Substances Act, as well as dealing in dagga.

“The Serious Organised Crime Unit of the Directorate for Priority Crime Investigation (Hawks) and members of Forensic Science Laboratory and Local Criminal Record Centre descended on a dagga laboratory in Brits on Saturday and arrested the owner of a cannabis dispensary. The suspect, who allegedly also sells franchises for cannabis dispensaries, is a major supplier of cannabis and related products in the country,” said Hawks spokesperson, Captain Tlangelani Rikhotso.

Rikhotso said the investigation aims to clamp down on unlawful cannabis dispensaries opening up around the country that claim to operate legally in terms of the Traditional Health Practitioners Act (No. 22 of 2007).

“A search of the suspect’s store allegedly revealed over 500 kg worth of cannabis estimated to be worth approximately R3 million, hydroponic tunnels for cannabis cultivation, various apparatus for processing and oil extraction and numerous other cannabis products.”
Everything was seized by the Hawks.

De Beer, who claimed to be dispensing cannabis under the Traditional Health Practitioners Act, was remanded in custody and will again appear in the Brits Magistrates’ court for formal bail application on Friday, 15 November 2019.

The South African Police Service issued a stern warning last week saying that the establishment of illegal dispensaries/outlets, online sites and social media platforms that market and sell cannabis and cannabis-related products to the public remain illegal, except where specifically allowed in terms of the Medicines and Related Substances Act.

“Some of these illegal businesses, purporting to be operating legally in terms of the Traditional Health Practitioners Act (No. 22 of 2007), are also being sold to members of the public as franchises authorised to deal in cannabis and cannabis-related products. However, the Traditional Health Practitioners Act does not create a mechanism to sell cannabis and cannabis-related products that are not exempted in terms of the Medicines Act,” said police spokesperson Brigadier Vishnu Naidoo.

“The public is once again reminded of the Constitutional Court judgment on 18 September 2018. The effect of the judgment is that only an adult person (18 years and older) may use, possess or cultivate cannabis in private for his or her personal consumption in private. The use, including smoking, of cannabis in public or in the presence of children or in the presence of non-consenting adult persons is not allowed.”

He said dealing in cannabis remains a serious criminal offence in terms of the Drugs and Drug Trafficking Act.

“The South African Police Service is mandated to and will act, not only against businesses that sell cannabis illegally, but also against the customers who buy these products,” Brig Naidoo said.