Jeremy Acton, the leader of the Dagga Party, hopes relaxed attitudes towards dagga will see his party get elected to the National Assembly.
Cape Town - Jeremy Acton, 54, the leader of the Dagga Party, hopes relaxed attitudes towards dagga, which culminated in last year’s landmark Constitutional Court ruling, will see his party get elected to the National Assembly.

On its website, the party posted a fund-raising appeal, hoping to raise R200 000 before March 13 so that it could be placed on the national ballot paper for the general elections on May 8.

I met Acton at his home in Cape Town’s northern suburbs.

The tiny lounge is squeezed by ample bookshelves filled to the brim with all sorts of books.

One of his family’s three dogs, Lady, keeps a watchful eye over the new stranger as we move out of the house and into the small garden at the entrance.

At the entrance to his front door, several plants, still in their plastic containers compete for the little sunshine on this unusually overcast day.

Acton proudly shows off some of his dagga plants, including varieties you’re unlikely to get from the guy peddling zol on dingy street corners.

Jeremy Acton, the leader of the Dagga Party. The party has posted a fundraising appeal on its website hoping to raise R200 000 before March 13. Video: Quinton Mtyala

When he’s not advocating for the Dagga Party, Acton can be found on film sets where his scraggly looks often have him cast as an extra in movies and TV.

Currently, he’s playing the role of an Irish-born hooligan in the Showtime production of Warrior, being shot in Cape Town, and based on the writing of Bruce Lee.

Acton quit his job in the architectural sector in 2001. In 2009 he started the Dagga Party and has been in and out of court, fighting the criminalisation of dagga. He says right now his party’s biggest challenge is organising on the internet.

“We’re struggling to find people to volunteer or render commercial services to us. There’s just an unwillingness, particularly in trying to develop a website which can take a membership application form from a person online and a small payment so that we know who that person is and where they live,” says Acton.

He says the party’s inability to organise on the internet “stops us from getting started”.

Acton says everyone who smokes cannabis or supports the legalisation of the plant “for the public benefit” is a potential member of the Dagga Party.

“Our politics is more than just cannabis for recreational use.

“It’s about those people who believe in it as an industrial resource, clean energy resource and an environmentally useful plant for poverty alleviation,” says Acton.

Seated on a bench in his local park, Acton says he tokes every morning as part of his routine.

I’m tempted to question him about the Constitutional Court judgment which specifically mentions the use of cannabis in a “private space” which in itself is ambiguous since a homeless person, for instance, could possibly call a public place his private space.

While the ANC, EFF and DA have all launched their election manifestos, Acton says his party is first studying those documents before it releases its own manifesto.

“We have three documents. One is our founding and guiding document which is actually the Global Green Charter that was drafted by all the Green parties of the world in Canberra (Australia) in 2001.

“I was there. I participated. It was a fantastic experience to take part in the writing of the greenest policy (document) in the world with global consensus,” says Acton.

He says oil peaked in 2011 and predicts that humanity is headed towards a global economic downturn, which he says will precede the end of fossil-based carbons.

“After the peak of oil, there will be the end of coal. The industry says 200 to 300 years, but scientists are saying 75 years when coal will no longer be an economically viable energy resource,” says Acton. According to Bloomberg, coal output in Europe and the US has declined by an average of 5% a year since 2011. No surprises for guessing that Acton’s solution for replacing coal is for us to plant a lot of dagga to offset carbon in the atmosphere. “We’ve burned the oil and the coal and it has put the carbon into the atmosphere. We need a technology that will take it down and out of the atmosphere, back into the economy and cannabis sequesters carbon from the atmosphere to build the plant, using photosynthesis and it’s very water-efficient as well. And it’s a technology that self-replicates, and provides nutrition and medicine.

“So we have to use cannabis on a mega-scale to step off fossil carbon and onto a carbon-neutral cycle,” says Acton.

Asked about those who remain sceptical over the positive effects of cannabis and still refer to it as a “gateway drug”, Acton said it was a creation of the American Drug Administration Agency’s “propaganda” which used “backward science” as part of its War on Drugs.

Should the Dagga Party ever form a government, Acton says one of his first actions would be to pardon those who had been convicted of dagga offences and remove them from prisons.

“We would give them back their freedom. That’s a small thing, but it would make a big difference to a lot of families in South Africa,” says Acton.

Acton says the Dagga Party wants to establish local cannabis co-operatives, which would be ward-based, to regulate cultivation and taxation of the plant.

On the topic of land reform, Acton says there needs to be a reconsideration of the ways in which land was owned.

“I think that we have to totally rethink the way we hold our land. Private ownership is one way.

Maybe (we should have) land trusts in various areas so that it’s held in perpetuity, then people get the rights to occupy.

“The fairest deal is that every family should have access to, or be able to live on, a property where a hectare of cannabis can be grown,” says Acton.

What started off as a fight against the criminalisation of dagga smokers might just see Acton being elected to Parliament.

Political Bureau