“An unemployed, dope-smoking Rastafarian has emerged as a key source for public protector Busisiwe Mkhwebane’s explosive report on public enterprises minister Pravin Gordhan.” – this is an opening line of a lead story in today’s Sunday Times issue, South Africa’s biggest Sunday newspaper.

I will be keeping my opinion of the subject matter of the article to myself, but what I will openly object to is for the newspaper adding to the stigmatization of cannabis – something that has been quite prevalent in the South African society.

This is despite the wave of legal reforms on the use of cannabis in more developed nations over the recent past, particularly in North America. Cannabis or should I call it “dope” is receiving great attention across the globe because of its usefulness in medicinal and industrial purposes (fuels, chemicals, environmentally-friendly plastics, biodegradable nappies, sanitary pads, and textiles). This is a far more important concept South Africans should acquaint themselves with than on the vaguely motivated stigmatization of its recreational use.

One would expect prominent organizations such as Sunday Times to be more appreciative and careful in their language when referring to a plant or industry that is currently valued at US$150 billion in the world, and poised to continue to grow.

Globally, there are efforts to efface the stigma of cannabis and shift the focus to the production and economic side of the crop, in a regulated environment. Celebrities such as the American hip-hop entrepreneur, Jay-Z, the Grammy-winning guitarist Melissa Etheridge, and the actor Whoopi Goldberg associate themselves with cannabis and are throwing their money where their mouth is in terms of supporting this budding industry.

With South Africa still on the backfoot in the development of this industry — on both research and legislation perspective — it would be best if efforts can be accelerated in exploring cannabis industry economic fortunes, rather than adding to the stigmatization of it. The more people feed into this stigma of cannabis, the less South Africa will be able to reap economic benefits from the crop.

Side note: Professor Mzukisi Qobo and I have a comprehensive analysis of the cannabis market in Business Day this week.

My previous writings on cannabis:

  • Should South Africa explore the cannabis market? Click here to read.
  • The Promise of the Eastern Cape’s Cannabis-belt? Click here to read.
  • Is it time for South Africa to create dope jobs? Click here to read.
  • High time the cannabis sector got legislation framework in South Africa. Click here to read.

Follow me on Twitter (@WandileSihlobo). E-mail: wandile@agbiz.co.za

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