Working in the cannabis industry has always been the dream for me. Turns out it’s the dream for a lot of people. The potential that cannabis has to generate billions of Rands in revenue; help people suffering from chronic illness; and change this country has seen huge interest from people all over the South Africa – and the world. The Dagga Couple are doing an amazing job of changing the law and the mindsets of people in this country (you can sign their petition here). But after working in SA cannabis for the last year, I’ve observed a massive divide – so typical to this country – when it comes to industry players. This journey has taken me to beautiful wine farms and mansions in Camps Bay. But it has also seen me working with people who only take. Scams. Lies. Common drug dealers. Even the police.
Cannabis has caught the attention of everyone – from the mega-wealthy mogul to the guy trying to sell a matchbox to feed his family. There is no doubt that cannabis will generate large amounts of revenue for this country. We have an abundance of sunshine; nutrient-rich soil; access to clean water; and cheap land and labour. We can produce a gram of cannabis for a fraction of the price that Europe and North America can. This means huge profit margins.
My fear is where these profits will go.
South Africa is a country rife with inequality. This will get worse if the revenue generated from cannabis goes to the already-wealthy, to pay for their next bottle of Hennessy, instead of reaching the communities that need it the most. Perhaps the saying ‘The rich get richer’ is true – but what about those that suffered under apartheid? And those that are still suffering due to the shortcomings of our current government.
Having been born privileged, I have been lucky enough to travel the world and live on four continents. This has given me incredible insight into different cultures and communities. From these travels, I have learnt that there are a lot of countries that have been f*cked by their governments. It’s not just South Africa. It’s not a white thing, and it’s not a black thing. It’s a human thing. It’s human greed.
I remember a concept from blurry-eyed Economics lectures at Rhodes University. ‘Marginal benefit’ can be explained like this: if you give water to someone in the desert, they will get far more benefit from the first glass than the tenth. The same principle can be applied to South Africa – giving R1 to someone living in Houghton is very different to giving R1 to someone begging on the street. This needs to be applied to the South African economy. Or that guy on the street could take desperate measures to get his R1.
Cannabis is a game-changer for this country – ‘The South African dagga industry could be worth R27-billion within four years’ – Business Insider
A very wise man said to me: ‘Only a quarter of a percent of people in this industry will make money from it.’ People are hustling. There has been incredible movement since the laws changed a year ago. There are now delivery services, apps and cannabis-infused drinks and beauty products. It’s been beautiful to see this plant (which should never have been made illegal) take its rightful place in our economy. There is a constant stream of articles on the health benefits of cannabis, and even talks of a cure for cancer. We’re looking at a product that’s not only taking on the recreational drug market, but also the pharmaceutical market. We are talking huge money. Couple this with eco-friendly building materials, biofuel and a superfood to feed the hungry, and it’s a no-brainer that the law is shifting. Cannabis has been used for centuries as a cure for many ailments. In my opinion, it’s a safer bet than alcohol.
South Africa – our beautiful home; our rainbow nation – has had a tough time. The xenophobia. The violence against women. It fills me with fear when I see articles with headlines like this: ‘A woman must obey her partner, say six out of 10 South Africans’. The merciless attacks on ‘foreigners’ seem barbaric. It’s crazy that we are still in this position in 2019, in the midst of the information age. Unfortunately, it’s not about just challenging people’s views – it’s about challenging their fathers’ views. And people don’t like that. But if we have any hope of transforming our country’s appalling crime and unemployment rates, it’s time to question archaic, primitive views. Views on women being possessions. Views on restricting a person’s ability to travel in their pursuit of happiness.
It’s time to unlearn these things. It’s time to move forward.
I see it like this: dagga has the most amazing ability to bring people together – to laugh and eat, but also to leave their judgements and stereotypes behind in a puff of smoke, and engage in deeper, socially-transformative conversations. Cannabis also has an incredibly broad target market (good for business) which touches people from all walks of life. We are seeing the largest rise in usage amongst people aged 65+ – what a time to be alive, hey Karen? If we could harness the magic of this plant and tap into its healing qualities from social and economic perspectives, dagga has the power to transform this country – and continent.
This is our shot. Everyone knows about the American Dream, where anyone has the ability to become rich and famous. It’s time for us to look to the African Dream, where we grow our country to greatness from the roots up.
And really – #ItsHighTime
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Peace. Love. Unity.