Legalise it, says producer
Nelspruit - Some Mpumalanga citizens want to see the South African government legalise dagga to accommodate international tourists coming to the country for the 2010 FIFA World Cup.
Bushbuckridge music producer, Jerry Hlatshwayo, said it was disturbing that people were only talking about legalising prostitution, which was decriminalised during the German World FIFA World in 2006 to satisfy soccer fans.
"People in Amsterdam have spots where they can freely smoke without fearing arrest. Here in South Africa we put people in jail just because they want to be in touch with nature through ganja (dagga)," said Mndawe.
Hlatshwayo said although he has never used dagga, he has seen its positive effects on musicians who use it during music writing or composition.
He said dagga helped many producers become "maestros" in their own professions, as it stimulated their creativity, taking them to new heights.
Creative after smoking
"I'm naturally talented, so I don't need weed (dagga) to be creative. But I have seen others become exceedingly creative after smoking. I think we should legalise it for the sake of the tourists, if not for ourselves," said Hlatshwayo.
He said it would be difficult for people from the Netherlands to visit a country where what was legal in their country was regarded as a criminal act in South Africa. He labelled the criminalisation of dagga "institutionalised hypocrisy".
"People are allowed to smoke cigarettes when it is clear they are lethal. Why would the law allow a cigarette, which has the potential to kill children who don't even smoke, and ban a substance that enhances creativity?" he asked.
He said it was "silly to criminalise" things like prostitution and dagga.
"No one should be able to decide whether you drink or smoke. It's up to you. Of course others will abuse weed as much as some drivers misuse their cars, but this doesn't make it criminal to drive, does it?" asked Hlatshwayo.
Outspoken Rastafarian Mdu Mndawe said he was a proud dagga smoker, but was sad that he was made to feel like a criminal in South Africa.
"Rastafarians welcome any move to legalise ganja in 'Mzansi'. The herb is a way of life for Rastafarians, but we feel like slaves because we must hide when we smoke," said Mndawe.
Decline in the drug trade
He said decriminalising dagga would see a decline in the drug trade because people would be able to plant their own marijuana trees.
The South African Law Reform Commission (SALRC) has called on anyone wanting to have dagga decriminalised to approach them.
"[We have] not been asked by anyone, whether it be the state or a private person, to investigate the possibility of decriminalising marijuana," said SALRC commissioner Thuli Madonsela, on Friday.
She said if any member of the public asked the commission to conduct such an investigation, the commission would first consider the value of such an investigation and seek approval from the minister of justice and constitutional development.
"[The minister would then] include this investigation in the ministry's programme. If allowed, it would consider various factors, including the impact of decriminalisation and human rights implications, and advise government accordingly," she said.