Holy smoke! The Mother City’s dagga march

CityPress - - News - BIÉNNE HUIS­MAN bi­enne.huis­man@city­press.co.za

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

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