Weed war needs a little indica


Let us honour South Africa’s decriminalisation of the personal use of cannabis, even if there is a lack of clarity about the amount that would be considered one person’s legal stash.

In some countries, you’d be okay if you were caught with a gram of the stuff, because that’s seen as a one-person portion, but in South Africa we would probably have to set the quantity at the equivalent of one Checkers bag.

Whatever the amount, the ruling is sure to “spread joy up to the maximum”, to quote an old song (one with hyper-hyphenation issues — Ac-Cent-Tchu-Ate the Positive), while, we note, the weed wars continue in the Land of the Free. Yes, cannabis is now legal is some states but in others it’s still a burning issue.

The American weed wars are part of a political battle in Texas, where liberal Beto O’Rourke is running for the Senate against conservative incumbent Ted Cruz. And guess who has got involved in the fight? Willie Nelson. The 85-year-old country-music legend has long been a proponent of the right to smoke cannabis, and even has his own boutique brand, Willie’s Reserve. (Willie’s Stash, by contrast, is the title of an album series of old gems.)

Nelson will play a concert in support of O’Rourke on September 29, which has had some Texans moaning that he has outed himself as a “communist”. Even allowing for Americans’ lax grasp of political terminology, that seems too strong. But Nelson cheerily brushed it off with a simple statement: “I don’t care.”

He told chat-show host Stephen Colbert, who interviewed Nelson in his tour bus, that he has made political endorsements aplenty, going back to 1970, when cowboy movie star and singer Tex Ritter ran for a Tennessee senatorial seat. “A lot of people seem surprised that I’m backing a candidate,” he said, “but it ain’t my first rodeo.” No indeedy.

He also said he’d happily share a joint with a couple of people who, he feels, need some indica input — Donald Trump, definitely, and Vladimir Putin, he chuckled, could certainly “take a hit”.

The Trumpish Cruz, meanwhile, sounds like he has already overdosed on the dope, perhaps the paranoia-generating kind. Noting the presence of People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals activists at an O’Rourke rally, he claimed that “if Beto wins, BBQ will be illegal” in Texas. He also accused the Democrats of evil social-engineering desires in Texas, saying they “want us to be just like California, right down to tofu and silicon and dyed hair”. Gosh, can you imagine such a reign of terror?

O’Rourke is clearly the more rational candidate here. Not only is he advocating a federal plan for cannabis legalisation (and regulation and taxation), which is doubtless music to Nelson’s ears, but he also plays the guitar. In fact, he played with Nelson at the latter’s Fourth of July concert this year. O’Rourke, who used to be in a punk band, joined Nelson in a rendition of one of his more recently composed anthems. The title? Roll Me Up and Smoke Me When I Die.

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Shaun de Waal
Shaun De Waal

Shaun de Waal has worked at the Mail & Guardian since 1989. He was literary editor from 1991 to 2006 and chief film critic for 15 years. He is now editor-at-large. Recent publications include Exposure: Queer Fiction, 25 Years of the Mail & Guardian and Not the Movie of the Week.

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