By: Palesa Makam
The debate on the legalisation of weed in South Africa has been a controversial one. People for the debate argue that weed should be legalised in South Africa for several reasons. For example, religious reasons (Rastafari), medicinal, recreational etc. The law sees weed as a harmful drug therefore has not legalised it. Recently, a judgment was handed down in the Western Cape High Court which declared that some sections in the Drug Trafficking Act of 1992 are “invalid and unconstitutional”. The case was brought by Rastafarian lawyer, Garreth Prince and the leader of the Dagga Party of South Africa, Jeremy Acton.
Justice Dennis Davis challenged this Act with regards to its infringement on privacy rather than freedom of religion as it had been addressed to the court before, but the argument was that a religious exemption would be slightly more difficult to enforce. Once the ruling has been made official (after 24 months) people will be legally allowed to possess, grow and use weed at home for private use.
The final ruling on this case in the Western Cape will also determine whether or not weed will be legalised nationally too. This topic should be one of interest for South African citizens of any kind be it race, religion, sex, gender, class etc because it does in fact affect everyone somehow. People are already doing marijuana illegally yet the effects of more harmful yet legal substances such as tobacco and alcohol are far, far greater. Some may argue that its because marijuana is legal so people are intimidated and use it more secretly, but the counter-argument may be that alcohol is not for people under the age of 18 yet according to News24, half of the popularity of South African teenagers drink alcohol and according to the `national Alcohol Indicators, 80% of these teens drink it at high risk levels of “acute harm.”
Most sources, even the news, support the legalisation weed in South Africa as well as worldwide. I decided to ask people on campus what they thought about the topic. I asked 3 very different people on it: a stoner, someone who is against weed and someone indifferent towards it. I chose not to use their names because weed is still illegal and they may face some trouble because they have used the substance.
The interview with the stoner went as follows:
Me: “How do you feel about the legalisation of weed in SA?”
Stoner: “I genuinely have a good reaction to it for the mere fact that friends of mine are getting arrested for having contents of weed. You can’t even get arrested if you have contents of weed less than 150g so my friends were getting arrested for nothing. In that context I feel like I’m really happy with it- the actual legislation part of it. I mean, we get high all the time anyway, just that now we can’t get caught for it.”
Me: “Do you smoke weed regularly?”
Stoner: “Of course I smoke putsch, like, everyday- about twice a day, three times a day. You know this, fam- the putsch!”
Me: “Do you think weed is less harmful than cigs and alcohol?”
Stoner: “I definitely think it is because as a fellow stoner, you smoke way less weed than cigarettes a day. I can literally be sufficient off two joints a day rather than 5 cigarettes a day. Liquor in general is very damaging as well. As a stoner you don’t wake up with a hangover, you don’t wake up with headaches, you don’t wake up with anything terrible, fam. So yes, that’s why I personally think it’s a lot less harmful than both of them- combined.”
The second interview was with a girl who felt indifferent towards weed. She smokes it seldom but just for recreational purposes and doesn’t mind if she doesn’t smoke it.
Me: “How do you feel about weed being legalised in SA?”
Nonchalant: “I’m for it, and not just because it’s not a harmful herb but because it’s used for medicinal purposes, religious purposes and spirituality and stuff.”
Me: “Do you believe that weed is less harmful than cigarettes and alcohol?”
Nonchalant: “Definitely. And at least weed use will be regulated whereas, like, tobacco and alcohol are extremely harmful and are unregulated. They’re even legal yet weed isn’t, and its way less harmful and has many more good sides than bad.”
My interview with my last interviewee was with a girl who is against drug use.
Me: “How do you feel about weed being legalised in SA?”
Antagonist: “Ugh, I’m so old school, but honestly, I’m scared because our generation is very free and liberal. As much as people wanna justify that weed is very healthy and medicinal, which is true, it’s not about that. It’s more about principle. Were already tasking a volatile and liberated generation and kind of giving us more leeway to be more reckless with our lives. It almost encourages the lazy side of our generation. We wanna do things to get things done.”
Me: “Have you ever smoked weed?”
Antagonist: “No… I’m too scared.” She giggles. “I have heard way too many people say they had a bad experience.”
Me: “Do you think weed is more harmful than cigarettes and alcohol?”
Antagonist: “No. Not at all. And cigarettes and alcohol is a dangerous combination.”
Me: “Cigarettes and alcohol are legal yet weed, a less harmful component as you said, isn’t. Thoughts?”
Antagonist: “For me it’s more about the principle. I don’t condone drinking and smoking either but legalizing weed is kinda just adding to the list of bad things for our generation.”
I decided to take it up a few generations and consult my mother on it. Her opinion was that weed should not be legalised; that it is a drug which will only increase crime and drug dependency. She says that it starts off with the less harmful drugs such as weed, and once people are comfortable with that, they feel more compelled and comfortable to try something a bit more exhilarating such as shrooms, and then ecstasy, and then cocaine, and so and so forth. She feels that children who use drugs start off using them to look cool and some even ditch classes or school altogether just to go get high.
Weed legalization in our country seems to have a lot more support than people against it, and more positive than negative effects because its use will be regulated.