South Africa’s history of State-sponsored segregation has taught cannabis activists there to avoid the pitfalls of botanical segregation and embrace the eons-old history of use by indigenous people. While countries around the globe struggle to re-regulate, commodify and capitalize on the plant’s resurgent legitimacy, South Africa could be poised to become a beacon of reefer sanity.
The War Against Cannabis in South Africa
In the late 1930s, an international campaign against marijuana was led by Harry Anslinger, the reviled United States Treasury official and head of the Federal Bureau of Narcotics. Anslinger is widely credited for instigating cannabis’s worldwide criminalization. It is, however, likely that Anslinger was inspired by the words of J.C. Van Tyen, secretary to South African Prime Minister Jan Smuts, in 1923. In a written statement presented to the League of Nations, Van Tyen implored the international body to include cannabis on its list of “dangerous drugs” as part of the International Opium Convention. “I have the honour to inform you that, from the point of view of the Union of South Africa, the most important of all the habit-forming drugs is Indian Hemp or ‘Dagga’ and this drug is not included in the International List,” he