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Cape Town Global Cannabis March 2014

17 April 2014, 07:43
The issue of cannabis law reform, particularly with regard to the medical uses thereof, has been making big headlines in the South African media in recent weeks.  A number of local radio stations including Voice of Wits, Talk Radio 702, Radio Sonder Grense (RSG), Jacaranda FM and Lotus FM have all given air time to the subject.  Cannabis has not escaped the attention of television either with M-NET’s flagship investigative journalism program Carte Blanche having showcased a segment on the medical uses of the plant in their March 16 feature.  This was followed by SABC3’s Special Assignment airing an investigation titled “Dagga: Clearing the Smoke” last Sunday.
Despite the Dagga Party not having made the cut to appear on the ballot for the 2014 General Elections owing to an inability to secure the R200 000 registration fee the political leaders of parties as diverse as the Economic Freedom Fighters and the Democratic Alliance continue to be dogged by questions from prospective supporters asking for them to clarify their position on cannabis.

As part of a continued and concerted effort to ramp up support for this cause and increase pressure on our political leaders a group of people are busy organising this year's incarnation of the Cape Town Global Cannabis March.
Imiël Visser, the community outreach director for NORML ZA (the National Organisation for the Reform of Marijuana Laws in South Africa), has dedicated much of his time over the last few years to advancing cannabis reform and is also the leading organiser of this year's march.  We caught up with him to ask some questions about the forthcoming cannabis march in the Cape Town city bowl on Saturday 3 May 2014 and the South African cannabis legalisation movement in general.

1) Given IFP MP Mario Oriani-Ambrosini's recent introduction of a private member's bill to South Africa's parliament, which seeks to legalise cannabis for medical and industrial uses, what do you foresee is likely to be in store in the coming months and years for the cannabis legalisation movement in our country?

Imiel Visser:  The Medical Innovation Bill is based on Lord Saatchi’s in the UK after his wife’s passing due to cancer and does not necessarily seek an originally localised approach. Furthermore the bill seeks to legalise cannabinoids and not the actual cannabis plant itself. The bill is more geared towards giving doctors limited liability when dealing explicitly with cannabinoids and cancer patients in designated pilot research hospitals. More of a doctor’s career insurance, than actual therapeutic value towards medical patients. SANCWG has submitted their public response to the bill and can be found at

South Africa’s uptake on some internationally relating policy matters is slow, like our internet. But we are busy catching up with the rest of the world and the truth can not be hidden much longer. This year has already seen serious public debate and trustfully some corrective legislative action will come to play as well. The time has never been greater for public participation to ensue.

2) You prefer not to call the plant by its widely used South African name “dagga”, is that because you find the name to be pejorative in some way? What name would you suggest South Africans use instead and why?

IV:  South Africans also call it umya, matekwane, instangu, mbanje & ntunzi we nkuku.

Cannabis though, is the taxonomically correct term to use when dealing with an evidence based approach. Any other uneducated approaches towards this debate will be centered around belief, politics and government propaganda. Historically, when it comes to derogatory terms, we have swept them under the carpet. There is very very little science backing up dagga, yet globally, the cannabis science debate rages on with current research expanding everyday. Behind dagga’s curtains, you will find propaganda and misleadings away from the truth.

There are many people that never heard of the terminology ‘cannabis’. For them it’s just a substance that is banned and has no scientific data attached behind it. The flood gates of relevant information sits behind the correct definition of the cannabis plant. Anything else is a distraction from the truth.

3) Can you give us a brief history of the Cape Town Global Cannabis March (from a South African perspective) and explain why it is an important event on the cannabis calendar?

Since 1999 marchers have been uniting globally in over 800 cities to date to express solidarity and support for the cannabis plant to be legalised. This public participation event is a reflection on the collective efforts of those that seek to review and reform cannabis. It’s all a volunteer effort and we work with what we got. Once a year, we get to come together en masse and grow our collective presence to show Cape Town that we are here, cheering and supporting a peaceful cause with smiles all round.

4) What are some of the surprises in store for those people who are considering attending the march?

It wouldn’t be a surprise if I gave it all away now? You will have to attend and find out yourself..

5) Will people be smoking cannabis at the event given that it is still illegal? Has anyone ever been arrested by the police on any of the previous marches?

No one has been arrested at previous cannabis marches in Cape Town, however this is not a smoking protest, we do not advocate cannabis consumption at the march. This is more than just smoking. It’s about the plant in its entirety. We do however like to show media and general public that we are normal responsible citizens and making smoking at the event your main focus takes away from that. The police will be there again and I cannot guarantee arrest free attendance based on other people’s actions.

6) The Cape Town leg of the Global Cannabis March has yielded good results in terms of growth over the past couple of years, is this evidence of its growing popularity and how many people are expected at the 2014 event?

Year on year, the collective spirit, emotions and efforts has been compounding and gaining momentum with this year’s event being no different. We can’t expect those that are in charge to change the laws without any external public influence, and the public is realising this. We have done a considerable bit more marketing this year and look to attract up to 5,000 supporters. The public discourse is reflecting in the recent uptake of the media’s interest in this topic.

7) The City of Cape Town has to give the ‘green light’ for the march to take place, what route through the city bowl has been designated for this year’s event?

We met with City Council and negotiated a longer walk for this year. The march starts where all protests starts, at the Corner of Keizergracht / Chapel. Volunteers and Marshals will be assembling from 8AM, the public will be gathering at 10AM. After consultation with the authorities we will make our way down Darling St. left into Adderley St, passing The Company Gardens entrance at the Chapel, up Wale St. and left into Long St. We will make our way past The Labia Theatre and will turn left into Government Avenue, making our way through the scenic and green Company Gardens. We make it back on Adderley St, continuing onto Darling and then Keizersgracht st. where the march will disperse for after-march proceedings.

8) A number of would-be attendees have expressed dismay that the cannabis march clashes with the wildly popular AfrikaBurn, why have you chosen to hold the event at the same time?

This is a yearly global event held on the 1st weekend of May and we can’t move dates. Just more reason to attend if you are not going to AfricaBurn.

9) Why do you personally feel that it is of such importance to promote the use of cannabis in this country?

I’ve never really been a big proponent of promoting cannabis use. Responsible cannabis use would be the correct way to put it. We are advocating for the adult use of cannabis, which includes a regulated and controlled market, akin to tobacco and alcohol. The cannabis apartheid has come to an end, we need to endeavour that this self determination will not pass South Africa, we need to continue to push to claim cannabis liberty.

10) Where can curious and interested people find out more details about the march?

Interested parties can visit and on Facebook, search for event: “Cape Town, Global Cannabis March”

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