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

    Russian-Backed Offensive in Syria Pushes War to Tipping Point

    As threat to Aleppo and rebel forces grows, US plan to negotiate becomes less and less appealing for Syrian government, says one military analyst

    IS Runs Timber Smuggling Business in Afghanistan, Officials Say

    Government turning blind eye to smuggling, according to tribal leaders; Afghanistan's forest cover dropped by 50 percent in three decades, experts say

    Video White House Seeks $1.8 Billion to Combat Zika

    Obama administration says funding would 'support essential strategies to combat the virus' such as rapidly expanding mosquito control programs, accelerating vaccine research

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

    By the Numbers

    Featured Videos

    Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
    'No Means No' Program Targets Sexual Violence in Kenyai
    X
    February 08, 2016 4:30 PM
    The organizers of an initiative to reduce and stop rape in the informal settlements around Kenya's capital say their program is having marked success. Girls are taking self-defense classes while the boys are learning how to protect the girls and respect them. Lenny Ruvaga reports from Nairobi.
    Video

    Video 'No Means No' Program Targets Sexual Violence in Kenya

    The organizers of an initiative to reduce and stop rape in the informal settlements around Kenya's capital say their program is having marked success. Girls are taking self-defense classes while the boys are learning how to protect the girls and respect them. Lenny Ruvaga reports from Nairobi.
    Video

    Video New Hampshire Voters Are Independent, Mindful of History

    Once every four years, the northeastern state of New Hampshire becomes the center of the U.S. political universe with its first-in-the-nation presidential primary. What's unusual about New Hampshire is how seriously the voters take their role and the responsibility of being among the first to weigh in on the candidates.
    Video

    Video Chocolate Lovers Get a Sweet History Lesson

    Observed in many countries around the world, Valentine’s Day is sometimes celebrated with chocolate festivals. But at a festival near Washington, the visitors experience a bit more than a sugar rush. They go on a sweet journey through history. VOA’s June Soh takes us to the festival.
    Video

    Video 'Smart' Bandages Could Heal Wounds More Quickly

    Simple bandages are usually seen as the first line of attack in healing small to moderate wounds and burns. But scientists say new synthetic materials with embedded microsensors could turn bandages into a much more valuable tool for emergency physicians. VOA’s George Putic reports.
    Video

    Video Bhutanese Refugees in New Hampshire Closely Watching Primary Election

    They fled their country and lived in refugee camps in neighboring Nepal for decades before being resettled in the northeastern U.S. state of New Hampshire -- now the focus of the U.S. presidential contest. VOA correspondent Aru Pande spoke with members of the Bhutanese community, including new American citizens, about the campaign and the strong anti-immigrant rhetoric of some of the candidates.
    Video

    Video Researchers Use 3-D Printer to Produce Transplantable Body Parts

    Human organ transplants have become fairly common around the world in the past few decades. Researchers at various universities are coordinating their efforts to find solutions -- including teams at the University of Pennsylvania and Rice University in Houston that are experimenting with a 3-D printer -- to make blood vessels and other structures for implant. As VOA’s Greg Flakus reports from Houston, they are also using these artificial body parts to seek ways of defeating cancerous tumors.
    Video

    Video Helping the Blind 'See' Great Art

    There are 285 million blind and visually impaired people in the world who are unable to enjoy visual art at a museum. One New York photographer is trying to fix this situation by making tangible copies of the world’s masterpieces. VOA correspondent Victoria Kupchinetsky was there as visually impaired people got a feel for great art. Joy Wagner narrates her report.
    Video

    Video Sanders, Clinton Battle for Young Democratic Vote

    Despite a narrow loss to former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton in last week's Iowa Democratic caucuses, Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders secured more than 80 percent of the vote among those between the ages of 18 and 29. VOA correspondent Aru Pande talks to Democrats in New Hampshire about who they are leaning towards and why in this week's primary.
    Video

    Video German Artists to Memorialize Refugees With Life Jacket Exhibit

    Sold in every kind of shop in some Turkish port towns, life jackets have become a symbol of the refugee crisis that brought a million people to Europe in 2015.  On the shores of Lesbos, Greece, German artists collect discarded life jackets as they prepare an art installation they plan to display in Germany.  For VOA, Hamada Elrasam has this report from Lesbos, Greece.
    Video

    Video E-readers Help Ease Africa's Book Shortage

    Millions of people in Africa can't read, and there's a chronic shortage of books. A non-profit organization called Worldreader is trying to help change all that one e-reader at a time. VOA’s Deborah Block tells us about a girls' school in Nairobi, Kenya where Worldreader is making a difference.
    Video

    Video Genius Lets World Share Its Knowledge

    Inspired by crowdsourcing companies like Wikipedia, Genius allows anyone to edit anything on the web, using its web annotation tool
    Video

    Video In Philippines, Mixed Feelings About Greater US Military Presence

    In the Philippines, some who will be directly affected by a recent Supreme Court decision clearing the way for more United States troop visits are having mixed reactions.  The increased rotations come at a time when the Philippines is trying to build up its military in the face of growing maritime assertiveness from China.  From Bahile, Palawan on the coast of the South China Sea, Simone Orendain has this story.
    Video

    Video Microcephaly's Connection to Zika: Guilty Until Proven Innocent

    The Zika virus rarely causes problems for the people who get it, but it seems to be having a devastating impact on babies whose mothers are infected with Zika. VOA's Carol Pearson has more.
    Video

    Video Stunning Artworks Attract Record Crowds, Thanks to Social Media

    A new exhibit at the oldest art museum in America is shattering attendance records. Thousands of visitors are lining up to see nine giant works of art that have gotten a much-deserved shot of viral marketing. The 150-year-old Smithsonian American Art Museum has never had a response quite like this. VOA's Julie Taboh reports.