GREEN FIN­GERS

Dagga gu­rus train bud­ding grow­ers

Sunday Times - - Front Page - By NIVASHNI NAIR

● If you hear Louise Maxwell talk­ing to “Mon­ster Fluffy” in her gar­den, don’t as­sume it’s her pet dog or cat.

It’s the Dur­ban woman’s 3m dagga plant.

De­spite hav­ing grown 15 dagga plants on her own, she is now at­tend­ing free classes to learn to grow weed in just 12 les­sons.

Maxwell is set to grad­u­ate soon along­side 150 class­mates — in­clud­ing doc­tors, phar­ma­cists, house­wives and re­tirees — who have at­tended the course of­fered by hor­ti­cul­ture store Can­naMart and Africa’s first medic­i­nal cannabis dis­pen­sary, Holis­tic Re­leaf, in the Dur­ban in­dus­trial area of Glen Anil.

The classes started on Oc­to­ber 1 — not quite two months af­ter the Con­sti­tu­tional Court de­crim­i­nalised adults’ smok­ing dagga at home and grow­ing enough for per­sonal con­sump­tion. As the first class, stu­dents were given free seeds from the Holy Smoke brand for their prac­ti­cal les­sons.

The syl­labus cov­ers the ins and outs of grow­ing dagga, and the stu­dents have ap­plied the the­ory to their own crop.

“I had been grow­ing cannabis for a lit­tle while be­fore it was de­crim­i­nalised. I wanted to learn new tech­niques, see what I was do­ing wrong and just to pro­duce a bet­ter end prod­uct for my­self,” said Maxwell.

She learnt more about the nu­tri­tion of her plants and how to iden­tify de­fi­cien­cies.

“I have tweaked my grow. I do pH bal­ance in my wa­ter. I learnt how to trim the plant and what other nu­tri­ents I can put in if I want to go or­ganic be­cause a lot of out­door grow­ers like to go or­ganic.”

Maxwell’s 15 plants have to be grown out­doors be­cause they are “mas­sive”.

For now, she doesn’t in­tend to ex­pand, as she is un­cer­tain about the le­gal limit on the num­ber of plants one can grow.

“The gov­ern­ment has not yet said how much is al­lowed. But it all boils down to per­sonal con­sump­tion. I may need 20g a month while some­one else may need 20g a week, so I as­sume peo­ple grow ac­cord­ing to their per­sonal needs,” she said.

Win­ston Sanders, who works in the print­ing in­dus­try, de­cided to at­tend the course be­cause he wanted to gain more knowl­edge about his “hobby”.

“I have been grow­ing cannabis for a while and I wanted to bet­ter my­self. Read­ing about it and gain­ing tips from the in­ter­net is not the same as go­ing to an in­ter­ac­tive class,” he said.

“My plants are now on my bal­cony. You have to pass them to en­ter my home. There isn’t as much stigma as there was be­fore the Con­sti­tu­tional Court rul­ing.”

On the first day of the course, the ages of the stu­dents sur­prised their 22-year-old teacher, Michael Govender.

“When we first thought of the course, I thought we were go­ing to get all of the younger peo­ple, like the peo­ple who are in­ter­ested in the recre­ational side of it, but I was com­pletely mis­taken.

“We have peo­ple of all ages. We even have some grand­fa­thers,” said Govender.

The doc­tors and phar­ma­cists who at­tended were in­ter­ested in learn­ing the com­po­si­tion of the cannabis plant.

“They were very in­ter­ested in cre­at­ing oils for them­selves and just to start the grow­ing process on their own, ” said Govender.

He ad­mits to hav­ing no hor­ti­cul­tural or botany qual­i­fi­ca­tions.

His ed­u­ca­tion, like that of the other course teach­ers, came from “show­ing an in­ter­est in grow­ing cannabis in my own per­sonal space”.

Shortly af­ter the Con­sti­tu­tional Court rul­ing, Holis­tic Re­leaf Well­ness and Pain Man­age­ment Cen­tre founder Krithi Thaver re­alised there was a need for classes to teach peo­ple how to grow cannabis.

“There are a num­ber of tech­niques that can be used to re­ally max­imise the growth of this amaz­ing plant and we wanted to share the knowl­edge we have with those want­ing to learn,” said Thaver.

The course is di­vided into sec­tions to teach be­gin­ners, in­ter­me­di­ate and ad­vanced stu­dents. Af­ter com­plet­ing the course, stu­dents re­ceive a cer­tifi­cate — though Thaver doubts any­one will be in­clud­ing it in their CV.

Pic­ture: Thuli Dlamini

Michael Govender teaches stu­dents the art and sci­ence of grow­ing dagga at Can­naMart and Holis­tic Re­leaf.

Louise Maxwell has 15 dagga plants.

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