Pubdate: Fri, 08 Jul 2016
Source: Sowetan (South Africa)
Column: Watching You
Copyright: 2016 Sowetan
Author: Fred Khumalo


BILL Clinton memorably took a puff, but did not inhale. A few years 
later, his fellow Democrat Barack Hussein Obama admitted that in his 
youth not only did he take a puff from a dagga roll, but he also inhaled.

"I inhaled frequently. That was the point," he said.

Mind you, these were public admissions, therefore suggesting that 
these personalities had done something wrong by smoking dagga.

However, because these admissions came from these personalities, they 
sounded rather cool.

Society in general frowns upon weed, and arbiters of moral standards 
especially in this country  will tell you that dagga smokers are 
failures who are destined for two places: jail or an early grave.

The humble herb has received such bad press over the years that it is 
generally ill-advised to admit familiarity with it. So much so that 
some people even believe that smoking the herb can drive you crazy.

Sadly, King Dalindyebo of the Thembu hasn't helped the image of holy 
herb either. He has made a number of poor judgment calls and all 
these mistakes have been put at the door of the holy herb.

"You see? This is because he smoked dagga," his detractors will tell you.

Yet the reality is that throughout history, many successful 
personalities, ranging from William Shakespeare to Bob Marley, from 
King Shaka to Bill Gates, from former London mayor Boris Johnson to 
Oprah Winfrey, have come out openly about their relationship with the 
international herb.

Political commentator and writer Bill Maher memorably said: "Look, I 
have never made a secret of the fact that I have tried marijuana ... 
about 50 000 times."

Locally, I know quite a few influencers - top judges and businessmen 
of note - who partake of the holy chalice. However, they would never 
admit in public that they were dagga smokers because of the stigma.

It is therefore heartening that there is a sea-change in 
international perceptions about dagga. As we speak, Jamaica is in the 
process of installing dagga kiosks at its airport  so tourists can 
start using the herb as soon as they touch down.

Many people - and I was one of them for a long time - assumed that 
dagga was legal in Jamaica. You see, I grew up on reggae music. The 
cover sleeves of many reggae albums  Peter Tosh's for example - 
always showed pictures of these artists smoking a joint.

But in reality, dagga was decriminalised in Jamaica only last year.

This in emulation of the United States which raised R80-billion from 
tax realised from the sale of dagga last year. In Amsterdam, in the 
Netherlands, dagga was decriminalised decades ago, and has always 
been sold at cafe's in this city, just to cite another example. 
Revenue from dagga is part of their economy.

It's been a long time coming, the decriminalisation of dagga in the 
US. Last year Obama told CNN: "I'm on record as saying that not only 
do I think carefully prescribed medical use of marijuana may in fact 
be appropriate and we should follow the science as opposed to 
ideology on this issue.

"But I'm also on record as saying that the more we treat some of 
these issues related to drug abuse from a public health model and not 
just from an incarceration model, the better off we're going to be."

Legalisation in the US has given a massive financial boost to 
Colorado. The herb has also been decriminalised and started raising 
revenue in Washington state and the District of Columbia. Despite 
this, and the fact weed has been found by scientists to be 114 less 
deadly than alcohol, some states in the US are still reluctant to 
decriminalise it.

Look, I am not a scientist, nor have I done any in-depth research 
into the causal link between dagga and antisocial behaviour. But even 
a cursory look at road accident stats will show that alcohol is more 
of a problem.

Alcohol is also part of a dangerous cocktail that fuels violence in 
our neighbourhoods. I am not aware of any study that has specifically 
singled out dagga for the spike of violence in our neighbourhoods, 
especially over the weekend.

Fortunately for alcohol, it is distilled by powerful people with big 
money and therefore have a powerful lobby. Not so with dagga.

The Jamaican example should be an inspiration to us. Because we are a 
more sophisticated economy, we can even do better than them.

We cultivate a lot of dagga, after all, but we do it in secret. Maybe 
it's also time we formalised and decriminalised it. People will 
therefore run dagga farms legally, without fear and being at the 
mercy of crime syndicates currently running the industry.

Just a thought. Puff and pass.
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MAP posted-by: Jay Bergstrom