Jozi marks 420:Global Dagga Day in style
For a few hours this past weekend, downtown Johannesburg was transformed into a dagga smokers’ paradise.
The city was among the 364 cities around the world where marijuana joints were being rolled up in honour of the 420:Global dagga Day this past Saturday.
Despite the rainy and cold weather, droves of people came out to celebrate at The Maboneng Precinct. Some were seen walking the streets with their joints in hand, enveloped in clouds of smoke. Others danced to the live music coming from the elaborately decorated balcony in a cordonedoff area at the arty precinct.
A man was handing out dagga seeds, telling people to “plant this in your community, in your yard and at the police station ”.
Below the stage erected for acts to entertain the crowds was a brightly coloured graffiti mural with the defiant words: “They can ’ t arrest us all!”
The festival attracted smokers of all races and ages, including a man who was hoping to recruit voters for a dagga political party.
“The police are here, there are quite a few undercover policemen. The reason why we do this is because we are not scared,” said festival organiser Myrtle Clarke.
Clarke and her partner Julian Stobbs, who are popularly known as the “Dagga Couple ”, have been on a mission since 2010 to get dagga legalised.
The couple also have a Facebook page with thousands of followers and a website where they get people to sign a petition, offer legal advice and give information about the drug.
Stobbs said although they had secured a normal permit from the city to hold a street party, they did not have the permission to smoke.
In keeping with the festival tradition, everyone lighted up their joint at 4.20pm and there was smoke everywhere and the distinct smell of dagga.
The time signifies where the festival idea originated from a group of high school children in California called the Waldos, who used to meet up after school every day at the time to light up some joints.
It was later adopted by dagga smokers around the world who use the term 420 as a secret code to indicate when they want to hide away somewhere to smoke.
For years activists the world over have come out strongly to debunk government laws against dagga smoking. They argue, among other things, that dagga is not a recreational drug, that it is safer than tobacco or alcohol and has lots of health benefits that are being overlooked.
Reggae songstress Sister Ites said she and her two children eat, drink and smoke dagga for its medicinal and meditative properties. The hemp variation of the dagga plant is known to be an environmentally friendly material for making clothes, footwear and accessories, among other things.
Tommie le Roux, of the Dagga Party, travelled all the way from Western Cape to support the cause. Le Roux was also there to help get 500 signatures so that his party can enter the 2014 national elections. “So if you see a green leaf on the ballot, vote for us,” Le Roux said.
He added that he would be attending another dagga demonstration due to take place in Cape Town next month.
Meanwhile, Sowetan caught up with actor Pallance Dladla, who was seen wearing a white scarf around his face. When asked what he was doing at the dagga bash, Dladla said he was there to have fun with his friends and to enjoy the good music. He explained that he did not smoke the herb.
As night time fell, more people descended upon the precinct, with the skater boys putting up a spectacle by gliding through Fox Street.
Cafes and restaurants such as Pata Pata and Eat Your Heart Out were filled to capacity with festival goers.
“Dagga is all about peace and love. You can drink and fight, but you can ’ t smoke and do stupid things,” said Fortune Tshabalala as he puffed away.