Holy smoke! The Mother City’s dagga march
With their own deejay playing music over loudspeakers from a trailer, thousands of protesters poured through central Cape Town yesterday morning for the annual cannabis legalisation walk and puff in broad daylight through the streets of the Mother City.
Grey clouds of dagga smoke soared over the marchers as they made their way up Long Street to the Company Gardens. The marchers were there to deliver one message: that cannabis be decriminalised for medical use. Puff, but some want dagga to be freed for recreational use, too.
“It’s just a piece of grass!” read one protester’s placard. “Don’t be a droll, legalise zol,” read another.
In 2014, the late IFP MP Mario Ambrosini tabled the Medical Innovation Bill, which sought legality for dagga as a medical remedy in South Africa. But the legislation has since become bogged down by related issues such as dagga consumed recreationally.
Speaking to City Press at the cannabis march’s starting point, Farrell Adams (45), the event’s deejay and master of ceremonies, said dagga was a gift from above.
“Yes, I’m playing music here, but I’m also really passionate about the cause. Dagga is a plant God put on this planet with a reason. How can any government or association tell us not to use it? And it has so many applications: as textile, as fuel or as building material; and especially medically,” he emphasised.
Law authorities kept a wary eye over the crowd and several police cars lined Keizersgracht Street next to the Cape Peninsula University of Technology, where the march started.
Criminal lawyer William Booth said South Africans caught with a dagga joint could be still be fined R150 – but these cases are often withdrawn from court or the accused got to do community service.
“Police and prosecuting authorities look at dagga in a far less serious light than, say, hard drugs. Often cases are withdrawn. Of course it also depends how many times someone’s been busted.”
Booth said South Africans could apply for a permit to use cannabis for medical purposes – but it was a cumbersome process.
He felt it should be made easier for sick people – for example, cancer patients – to obtain dagga in our country. “This is being done internationally. I mean in several states in the US small quantities of dagga are available to the sick. I really believe this angle needs to be relooked and changed in South Africa,” he argued.
Meanwhile, the march’s organisers told City Press that 15 000 people participated last year and that they expected to “triple those numbers” yesterday. As far as City Press could see, no arrests were made against those who openly broke the law.
An official afterparty to the march was hosted at the Carnival Court Backpackers in Long Street.
Protesters at the march in Long Street Cape Town