News / Africa

Marijuana Advocates Seek High Office in South Africa

“The youth of South Africa are fully turned on to cannabis, and we see them as our future voters,” says Jeremy Acton. (Courtesy Dagga Party)
“The youth of South Africa are fully turned on to cannabis, and we see them as our future voters,” says Jeremy Acton. (Courtesy Dagga Party)
Darren Taylor
Jeremy Acton is a former pig farmer and, currently, a movie extra based in Cape Town, South Africa. He’s also the 49-year-old leader of the Dagga Party, a small political group that plans to participate in the national elections on May 7.  
 
The movement’s main objective is to get cannabis – known as dagga in South Africa – legalized. Acton is one of many South Africans who have been arrested for possessing marijuana.
 
He said an attack on the farm on which he grew up in the province of Eastern Cape set him on the path to smoking dagga, and sparked his political venture.     
In 2000, a gang of armed robbers stormed the farm store managed by his father and brother.
 
  • The man behind the Dagga Party is Jeremy Acton, a South African who wants to legalize marijuana. (Courtesy Dagga Party)
  • South Africans call marijuana dagga, smoke it defiantly and are often jailed for it. Acton and the Dagga Party wants to legalize its sale and possession. (Courtesy Dagga Party)
  • Acton stands by South Africans such as the Rastafarian who faced charges of possession of cannabis in Cape Town. (Courtesy Dagga Party)
  • “The youth of South Africa are fully turned on to cannabis, and we see them as our future voters,” said Acton. (Courtesy Dagga Party)
  • Dagga Party members light joints in front of the media at a Cape Town gathering. (Courtesy Dagga Party)
  • A Dagga Party protester argues for making marijuana legal, not alcohol. (Courtesy Dagga Party)
“They came in shooting and they shot my brother twice, and he went down behind the counter with stomach wounds. And then my father ran out of a storeroom on the side and got shot once through the heart and died…”
 
Acton’s brother survived, but he said the incident “destroyed” his family. His mother sold the land that he’d hoped to inherit.
 
Road to poverty and appreciation for cannabis
 
Severely depressed, Acton wandered South Africa, working on farms. “I know what it’s like to be poor,” he reflected. The attack resulted in Acton developing an affinity with impoverished, landless people, but it also had another consequence: he started smoking cannabis.
 
“I started using dagga to cope with depression. I found it also eased my allergies and my asthma. But it also helped me to meditate and to solve certain problems in my life,” said Acton, who’s also a trained architect with a graduate degree from Nelson Mandela Metropolitan University.
 
Jeremy Acton talks about dagga, hemp and the opposition
Jeremy Acton talks about dagga, hemp and the oppositioni
|| 0:00:00
...    
🔇
X

“People might say, ‘Well, that’s not the way to face your decisions.’ But I always found that it gave me a kind of an inner voice which I could hear more clearly – my conscience, perhaps you could call it.
 
“By listening to that inner voice I gained the impression that in order to legalize cannabis, you have to politicize it and make it an issue in the face of the oppressor.”
 
Acton registered the Dagga Party in 2011.
 
“Every adult should have the legal right to choose whether or not they want to use cannabis,” he insisted.   
 
But in South Africa, choosing marijuana can have severe consequences. Acton said prisons in South Africa are “filled with people whose only so-called crime is to use dagga - innocent people who are just medicating with a health-giving and life-giving plant.”
 
Health and economic benefits
 
The authorities brand cannabis a social evil that harms users’ physical and mental health. Acton, who said he’d been in touch with international medical experts to research dagga’s health impacts, vehemently disagrees.
 
The official emblem of the Dagga Party (Courtesy Dagga Party)The official emblem of the Dagga Party (Courtesy Dagga Party)
x
The official emblem of the Dagga Party (Courtesy Dagga Party)
The official emblem of the Dagga Party (Courtesy Dagga Party)
“Cannabis… eases the symptoms of many diseases, such as arthritis and immune problems, diabetes, high blood pressure; the list is endless. This plant confers a longer life and if you have an illness, it enables you to live more effectively while you manage that illness.”
 
Where it’s legal, doctors prescribe marijuana to relieve pain from serious diseases including cancer and multiple sclerosis.
 
Acton said cannabis legalization would also be of tremendous economic benefit to South Africa.
 
“Dagga can replace a lot of expensive medicines,” he maintained. “If one has flu it’s the first thing you should use instead of buying all the pharmaceutical chemicals that you can obtain over the counter.”
 
He said that hemp ethanol and hemp biodiesel could end the world’s thirst for expensive petrol. “In actual fact, it was always cheaper to produce fuel, liquid fuel, for vehicles from hemp, or cannabis,” he said.
 
Acton pointed to pioneer automobile maker Henry Ford, who built a car partly from hemp resin and ran the vehicle on ethanol from hemp in the 1920s, calling it the “fuel of the future.”  And he mourned a 1937 act of the U.S. Congress that put an end to Ford’s hemp dreams.
 
“He had a vision of running all the cars that he built on hemp grown by American farmers and it was the Marijuana Tax Act that actually killed that idea so that we citizens of the world now have to buy fossil carbon. And you can see what damage it is doing to our climate. It has polluted the world.”
 
Corporate conspiracy
 
Acton said “greedy” global oil, petroleum and pharmaceutical companies have, as a result of their vast financial resources, gained power over government to suppress the value of hemp to protect their own “astronomical” profits.
 
“So here we are, after all these years, buying fossil carbon from this elite sector. We are prevented from developing the alternative - which is clean, carbon-neutral fuel from cannabis, or hemp,” Acton stated.
 
His wish is for South Africa to cultivate hemp on a large scale to produce fuel from it to end the country’s dependence on expensive petrol.
 
“Then this centralized control of energy, literally the fossil carbon industry, it could be completely overthrown by legalization of cannabis,” he said. “The hemp resource must then not be handed over to the corporations to profit from. It must be law that any citizen who wants to participate in cannabis production, in a regulated way, can become producers of energy.”
 
He added that cheaper fuel would cause the prices of food and most other goods to fall considerably.
 
Increasing support
 
Acton maintains that support for the Dagga Party is growing among “all types, all cultural groups, all age groups; elderly [people] who use it for medical reasons, people who have used it to get off alcoholism…
 
“There’s also very strong support for us in the communities of some of South Africa’s strongest ethnic groups, like the Zulu, Xhosa and Sotho, who for many centuries have used cannabis in their traditional ceremonies.”
 
He said he is now invited to speak to school children and university students about his organization’s policies and plans.
 
“The youth of South Africa are fully turned on to cannabis and we see them as our future voters, for their own future,” Acton explained.  
 
He said backing for the Dagga Party is arriving from unexpected quarters. “The Afrikaners; even the white, conservative Afrikaners – I’ve met so many of them who swear by their dagga,” he commented. Acton said his party is also gaining support from white middle class people who were previously “very anti-dagga.”
 
“Attitudes to cannabis are changing in South Africa very fast and I believe its legalization is just around the corner,” he enthused.   
 
Acton is convinced it’s possible for the Dagga Party to receive enough votes in the 2014 polls to win a seat in parliament or in a provincial legislature.
 
“That’s like a next step in recognition and getting a foot into places where decisions are made.”
 
From there, said Acton, his cannabis crusade would gain a momentum that would eventually be “unstoppable” and would set an example worldwide for other countries to follow.        

You May Like

Could Nemtsov Threaten Putin in Death as in Life?

Dynamic and debonair opposition leader had supported liberal economic reforms, criticized Russian president's aggression in Ukraine More

Oil Smuggling Highlights Challenges in Shutting Down IS Finances

Pentagon spokesman says Islamic State 'certainly continues to get revenue from the oil industry black market' but that airstrikes have made a dent More

India Focuses on Infrastructure, Investment to Propel Economy

Government expects economy to grow at 8 to 8.5 percent in next fiscal year More

This forum has been closed.
Comments
     
There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
US Supreme Court Hears Hijab Discrimination Casei
X
Katherine Gypson
February 25, 2015 11:30 PM
The U.S. Supreme Court has heard opening arguments in a workplace religious discrimination case that examines whether a clothing store can refuse to hire a young woman for wearing the headscarf she says is a symbol of her Muslim faith. Katherine Gypson reports from the Supreme Court.
Video

Video US Supreme Court Hears Hijab Discrimination Case

The U.S. Supreme Court has heard opening arguments in a workplace religious discrimination case that examines whether a clothing store can refuse to hire a young woman for wearing the headscarf she says is a symbol of her Muslim faith. Katherine Gypson reports from the Supreme Court.
Video

Video Falling Gas Prices Hurt Nascent Illinois Hydraulic Fracturing Industry

Falling oil prices are helping consumers purchase cheaper petroleum at the pump. But that’s made hydraulic fracturing or “fracking” less economically viable for the companies in the United States invested in the process. VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports on one Midwestern town that was hoping to change its fortunes by cashing in on the next big U.S. oil boom.
Video

Video Fighting in Sudan's South Kordofan Fuels Mass Displacement

Heavy fighting in Sudan's South Kordofan state is causing hundreds of thousands to flee into uncertain conditions. Local aid organizations estimate as many as 400,000 civilians have been internally displaced since the conflict began more than three years ago, while another 250,000 have fled across the border to refugee camps in South Sudan. VOA's Adam Bailes reports.
Video

Video Lao Dam Project Runs Into Opposition

A Lao dam project on a section of the Mekong River is drawing opposition from local fishermen, international environmental groups and neighboring countries. VOA's Say Mony visited the region to investigate the concerns. Colin Lovett narrates.
Video

Video A Filmmaker Discovers Her Biracial Identity in "Little White Lie

Lacey Schwartz grew up in an upper middle-class Jewish family, in a town in upstate New York where almost everyone she knew was white. She assumed that she was, as well. Her recent documentary, Little White Lie, tells the story of how she uncovered the secret of her true racial background. VOA’s Carolyn Weaver has more on the film.
Video

Video Deep Under Antarctic Ice Sheet, Life!

With the end of summer in the Southern hemisphere, the Antarctic research season is over. Scientists from Northern Illinois University are back in their laboratory after a 3-month expedition on the Ross Ice Shelf, the world’s largest floating ice sheet. As VOA’s Rosanne Skirble reports, they hope to find clues to explain the dynamics of the rapidly melting ice and its impact on sea level rise.
Video

Video US-Cuba Normalization Talks Resume Friday

Negotiations aimed at normalizing diplomatic relations between the U.S. and Cuba resume Friday. On the table: lifting a half-century trade embargo and easing banking and travel restrictions. There's opposition in Congress, but some analysts say there may be sufficient political and economic incentives in both nations for a potential breakthrough this year. VOA's Mil Arcega reports.
Video

Video Pakistan's Deadline For SIM Registration Has Cellphone Users Scrambling

Pakistani cell phone users have until midnight Thursday to register their SIM cards, or their service will be cut off. While some privacy experts worry about government intrusion, many Pakistanis are just worried about keeping their phone lines open. VOA Deewa reporter Arshad Muhmand has more from Peshawar.
Video

Video Myanmar Warns Factory Workers to End Strikes

Outside Myanmar's main city Yangon, thousands of workers walked off their jobs earlier this month demanding a doubling of their wages, pay raises after a year and input from labor unions on industrial regulations. Since Friday, the standoff has grown more tense as police moved in to disrupt the sit-ins, resulting in clashes that injured people from both sides. VOA correspondent Steve Herman visited industrial zones which have become a focus of Myanmar's fledgling workers rights movement.
Video

Video Oscar Winners Do More Than Thank the Academy

The Academy Awards presentation is Hollywood’s night to reward the best movies from the previous year. It’s typically a lot of glitter, a lot of thank you’s, a lot of speeches. But many of this year’s speeches carried messages beyond the thank you's. VOA’s Carolyn Presutti takes a look.

All About America

Circumventing Censorship

An Internet Primer for Healthy Web Habits

As surveillance and censoring technologies advance, so, too, do new tools for your computer or mobile device that help protect your privacy and break through Internet censorship.
More