File picture: Chris Collingridge/Independent Media
File picture: Chris Collingridge/Independent Media

Get high on own supply?

By Jason Mast Time of article published Apr 15, 2017

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Cape Town – For years much of South Africa’s dagga has been grown on the green rolling hills of the east coast, often as what economist Vladislav Lakcevic calls “garbage crops” – small plantings to supplement impoverished peasant farmers’ incomes.

But last month’s High Court ruling effectively legalising growth and use of dagga at home might hit the pockets of subsistence farmers in some of the poorest parts of southern Africa.

The High Court ruled last month that laws prohibiting household use of dagga were unconstitutional.

Parliament has 24 months to implement this ruling, and until then, dagga remains illegal.

However, the ruling may be the first step towards full decriminalisation. Dagga activists hope a case currently before the Gauteng High Court will result in such a judgment.

Thousands of people suddenly growing weed in their gardens rather than buying it on street corners could affect dagga farmers, said Jeremy Acton, president of the Dagga Party of South African.

“This may have a bit of an impact after about three or four months because plants take a while to grow,” he said, adding that he doubted whether weed would be springing up in “everyone’s yard”.

Economists and sociologists have undertaken numerous studies on the financial ramifications of full legalisation, Lakcevic said, but almost none had looked at what would happen if only at-home cultivation was allowed.

“It’s very hypothetical because no one knows the impact. How do we know what people do? Will they grow at home, will they not?” said Simon Howell, a researcher at the UCT Centre for Criminology. He added that the effect could vary greatly depending on the strain of dagga.

Alton, who for years has hoped for a thriving marijuana industry that would boost the Eastern Cape economy, said he anticipated that small farmers' profits would dip after prohibition laws were amended.

He said the price of Eastern Cape weed might be cut by as much as half the current going rate of R1 a gram.

Lakcevic, who did his dissertation on the economic effects of dagga being legalised, does not agree.

He said that while a few people might opt for home-grown, most dagga smokers did not have the desire or technical expertise. A significant drop in the price of Eastern Cape or other strains of marijuana was unlikely, he said.

Weekend Argus

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