South Africa: High time to decriminalize cannabis trade

Loyiso Maqela* doesn’t see himself as a drug dealer or a criminal.

The 31-year-old dagga grower from a village near Mpande, south of Port St Johns on the Wild Coast, sees himself as more of a cross between a farmer and a herbalist.

Maqela, one of thousands of small-scale growers in his area, has never had a formal job, apart from working as a gillie for fishermen at nearby Mpande Beach since he was forced to leave school at the end of Grade 4. He reckons that joining the region’s multimillion-rand marijuana trade was his only option.

Maqela, a full-time dagga grower for the past two years, says the several hundred plants he has cultivated in two plantations are all that stand between him and his pregnant girlfriend (she told him the big news on New Year’s Day) and starvation.

“I grow ganja because it is the only way I...

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