Green’s lawyer questions cannabis forensics

SAMPLES taken from Swakopmund resident Cheryl Green’s house when the police confiscated cannabis plants in July 2019, contained a dependence-producing compound.

This is according to an affidavit by senior forensic analyst John Shomeya which deputy prosecutor general Henry Muhongo submitted to Swakopmund magistrate Conchita Olivier during Green’s trial on Monday.

Green (59) is accused of being found in possession of a dependence-producing substance.

Evidence confiscated from her house in July 2019 included 71 cannabis plants, oil, and seeds.

Defence lawyer Richard Metcalfe said an affidavit stating that the seized evidence contained a dependence-producing substance was not enough, though, and that if Shomeya was not in court to clarify his findings through cross-examination, he would make use of former Namibian forensic science institute head Paul Ludik as forensic analyst for the defence.

“There must be evidence that the object opened is the same as that which had been submitted, and that the findings are as was stated,” Metcalfe said. “I doubt that the evidence exists,” he said.

The state and defence agreed that Shomeya would attend court proceedings on 26 January for the continuation of Green’s trial.

She was arrested and charged in July 2019 with growing cannabis and being in possession of cannabis seeds and oil.

Metcalfe has been arguing that the plants and other material found in her possession was hemp and was legally sold at shops as a health and cooking ingredient.

Green says she grew the product to help alleviate the pain of her partner, Rainer Kring, who suffers from motor neuron disease.

Metcalfe says the argument is not about whether a plant is illegal, but whether a dependence-producing substance is present in the plant, and whether the presence of the compound exceeds the amount that qualifies it as dependence-producing.

The healing compound found mainly in hemp is cannabidiol (CBD).

Namibia’s drug law states that dealing in, the use or possession of any prohibited dependence-producing drug or any plant from which such dependence-producing drug can be manufactured is illegal.

“If you talk about a plant, it means the cannabis plant. Cannabis is a plant,” the head of Erongo’s drug law-enforcement unit, Johannes Goagoseb, told the court on Monday when asked where Namibia’s Abuse of Dependence-Producing Substances and Rehabilitation Centres Act refers to cannabis as a drug.

“The law does not mention cannabis,” he said.

Muhongo is arguing that, based on the evidence confiscated by police and the forensic analysis thereof, the items were indeed cannabis and contained tetrahydrocannabinol (THC).

He submitted that the charge against Green should be amended to being in possession of not only a dependence-producing substance, but “3,69kg of a dependence-producing substance containing THC”.

Metcalfe disputed the quantity of THC, which can also be found in hemp, but is not dependence-producing.

He also questioned the chain of custody of the evidence confiscated by the police, highlighting several discrepancies in the police forms required in the handling of evidence.

Asked by Metcalfe where the evidence was, and if it had been delivered to Goagoseb after analysis, the drug unit commander said he could not remember who collected it.

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