Pubdate: Tue, 06 May 2003
Source: Cape Times (South Africa)
Copyright: 2003 Cape Times.
Author: By John Scott


Any thoughts I might have had of uprooting my Hermanus dagga plant were 
dispelled yesterday on reading about a Cape Town man's plans to build 
houses out of dagga for the poor.

Andre du Plessis says he needs only three tons of dagga (or cannabis, if 
you're botanically minded) plus sand and lime to put up a R15 000 home.

Three tons is quite a lot, and worth a bit more, I should imagine, than R15 
000 on your local street corner. In fact you could probably sell the three 
tons to people who have other uses for it, and build a mansion in 
Bishopscourt on the proceeds. But that would be illegal, and this column is 
determined to stay on the right side of the law.

The other snag attached to a cannabis construction is that the homeowner, 
in a fit of depression, might resort to lighting up his own house. Rather 
than smoking like a chimney pot, he could end up smoking the chimney pot, 
as well as the walls and the floors. His stoneless house could leave him 
stoned instead.

Nevertheless I am all in favour of helping the homeless, and am nurturing 
the dagga plant until clarity is reached in this matter. When the time 
comes I am prepared to donate it to the local building industry.

As I wrote previously, the plant sprang up of its own accord in the back 
garden. I said I was waiting to see if it turned out to be hemp, which is 
being farmed in the Eastern Cape for its fibre and oil and grows 
vertically, or dagga, a bushy plant that gives you an initially good 
feeling before taking you where you don't necessarily want to go (at least, 
so they tell me).

But an e-mail correspondent, Miss L Mouton, has put me straight. She says 
that marijuana and hemp are one and the same plant. "For the promotion of 
hemp the heads are picked to produce more foliage, and vice versa for 
producing marijuana for recreational drug use." Moreover, it is "the female 
heads that are commonly used for smoking, eating and brewing".

I should have guessed. But after close examination, I have still been 
unable to determine the sex of my plant.

If it's female it may have to go. Even if, as Miss Mouton says, quoting the 
Encyclopaedia of Medicinal Plants, it's an analgesic helpful to cancer and 
Aids patients, reduces muscle spasms in multiple sclerosis and cerebral 
palsy, eases eye pressure in those suffering from glaucoma, relieves 
asthma, arthritis and rheumatism, and acts as a laxative for constipation.

"Do the police know about this?" a very law-abiding neighbour, Mike, asked, 
when shown the plant.

"I told them about it in a column in the Cape Times on January 29," I 
replied. I would never hide from them my own small contribution towards 
solving the country's housing crisis.