The world, including South Africa, has spent billions over many decades trying to stamp out dagga, otherwise known as marijuana, cannabis, pot or weed. Those billions have been wasted. Worse still, they have diverted resources away from more important priorities.
Happily, politicians in many countries and many states in the USA have come to their senses. It is high time the South African government came to its senses and legalised dagga without delay.
Why was dagga not legalised before?
Proposing the legalisation of dagga begs the question as to why the ANC government has not done so before? Three answers suggest themselves. Either, it is scared of the reaction of successive US governments (including Trump's), or it is in the pay of local and international druglords who benefit hugely from the existing law. Or it is simply misinformed.
10 benefits of legalising dagga
1. Stop making criminals out of otherwise innocent citizens who choose to grow or consume a mild recreational drug.
2. Free up police resources, and those of our courts, to focus on more serious crimes such as murder, child and women abuse, crime lords, corruption etc.
3. Reduce corruption in our law enforcement agencies ('turn a blind eye' monies paid to police by crime lords and dagga dealers).
4. Free up financial resources to be focused on more important priorities.
5. Take dagga distribution and sales out of the hands of drug lords and dealers who encourage their 'clients' to try other much more dangerous drugs.
6. Facilitate the proper medical testing of claims that dagga is a majic plaant that can cure everything from cancer to sleeplessness and loss of appetite.
7. Provide an additional source of revenue (dagga tax) to the state. Such a 'tax' is currently being channelled to South African and international drug lords.
8. Stop the appalling system of aerial spraying of dagga crops with dangerous to humans pesticides in the rural areas.
9. Provide a major boost to local agriculture, income and job creation in the rural areas. especially in KwaZulu-Natal and the Eastern Cape.
10. Create significant export opportunities to countries where dagga is legal.
Seven important facts about dagga
Dagga has been smoked by Africans over most of the continent for centuries.
It is far less harmful to health than cigarettes, alcohol and other serious drugs which are known to kill millions of people worldwide, every year.
There are no records of people dying from an overdose of dagga.
Historically, almost all paper was made from the quick-growing hemp (dagga) plant and involved far fewer chemicals than that made from trees.
Dagga plants can be processed into high-quality clothing material.
Far from dagga being a gateway to hard drugs, it is the law, not dagga, that offers such a gateway.
The value of South Africa's annual (currently illegal) dagga crop has been calculated to be greater than that of its annual sugar crop.
Undo some of the dagga law damage
In addition to legalising dagga, the government needs to expunge the criminal records of those who have have been sentenced for possession or smoking of dagga offences. This will undo some of the damage the dagga law has done over decades.
- The author of this article, Peter Mansfield, is not a dagga user. He publishes a blog: ThoughtsandMemories.com