Dagga: The thrill is gone

Andrew Donaldson writes on the ConCourt's decision to legalise pot


THANKS a bunch, your Honours, but now that I can use dagga in private, there’s no fun in it anymore. The thrill of the illicit has gone and my devil-worshipping has been reduced to mere gesture, a ritual void of meaning.

I jest, of course. It is only the delusional who truck with Satan these days, and they were out in force following the Constitutional Court’s ruling, muttering darkly of the legislative crises, mental breakdowns and social upheavals lurking in the offing. 

We are a terrified nation, it seems, and there was much hysteria on the talk shows as callers blathered on fearfully about children whose parents would now take to cannabis like lemmings, stoned drivers on the roads and, laughably, asset managers not exercising due fiduciary prudence with their clients’ investments.

More soberly, the response from most of the political parties was guardedly neutral. Worryingly, there was talk of “responsible” adult use, which reeked of apartheid’s joyless Calvinism.

Seriously, how do you get responsibly stoned, and is it any fun? The whole point of being off your face is that you regress to adolescence: your brain melts, you eat peanut butter cookies and you giggle at silly videos on YouTube.

Besides, was there concerned prattle of responsible buggery when sodomy was legalised? No, I don’t think so either.

The lunatic fringe also had their two cents’ worth. 

Like many others, Bheki Cele, the funny police minister, hauled out the tired propaganda about marijuana being a gateway drug. If anything, research suggests that coffee’s more likely to lead to harder drugs than any other substance. 

Still, cannabis remains the gateway trigger with the botherers and hard of thinking; one mention of dagga, and they’re off, immediately churning out heroin horror stories.

According to the Citizen, Cele also claimed that, had the deputy chief justice, Raymond Zondo, consulted with him, well, marijuana users would all still be criminals and liable for prosecution. 

Whatever Cele had been smoking, it certainly wasn’t dagga.

Needless to say, the Mahogany Ridge stoners welcome the court’s decision. As it is, we wouldn’t have stopped doing dagga had the judges ruled otherwise, and this is true of the millions of South Africans who regularly use the drug.

The ruling is certainly apposite, this being Heritage Month and what-what. Is anything more Saffer than home-grown? Like braaivleis and rugby, weed is more likely to get the nation to socially cohere than arts and culture minister Nathi Mthethwa’s ugly “I Am The Flag” campaign.

We may be (stifled yawn) a young democracy, but it’s been a part of our culture for centuries. João dos Santos, the Portuguese missionary who rounded the Cape in 1586, noted that cannabis was grown here and the locals ate it to get stoned. It was the Dutch who later taught them to smoke, and the practice was more or less tolerated for the next 250 years.

It was only with the coming of sugar — which, as it turns out, is a way more harmful and addictive substance — that prohibition began in earnest as concerns rose that a mellow and stoned labour pool would negatively impact on profits.

There is some irony here. As part of the world-wide movement away from sugar, one of the world’s major pushers of the stuff, Coca-Cola, is now considering a soft drink product containing cannabidiol, a marijuana extract that has calming, analgesic properties.

Admittedly, cannabidiol has no psychoactive effects. But that’s okay. We throw brandy in our Coke. Which brings something deranged to the table. 

But, bottom line, there’s a lot of tom in dagga. Parliament has two years in which to frame up new laws. Legalising the whole caboodle — from tourist-friendly Amsterdam-style cafes to the industrial park-sized medical marijuana centres — will surely wrest major revenue from the black markets. 

For all the dope, it really is a no-brainer.

This article first appeared in the Weekend Argus.