Slice of life: ‘Cannabis calm saved me’

I was an ex-drug addict and ran an anti-drug company — it was not a great idea for me to be smoking weed. (Delwyn Verasamy/M&G)

I was an ex-drug addict and ran an anti-drug company — it was not a great idea for me to be smoking weed. (Delwyn Verasamy/M&G)

I was an ex-drug addict who used to battle with heroin and meth. But I started the Anti-Drug Alliance of South Africa about 12 years ago and then helped all these other people get into rehab. I wrote this report called At What Cost? The press picked it up and it went crazy.

But I have this really bad anxiety.
Like crazy bad. It becomes debilitating sometimes. It can knock me down for a couple of days or a couple of weeks. I can’t. I’m just paralysed. I don’t leave the house, answer my calls or anything. I eat, sleep and that’s it.

About seven years ago I was in the middle of one of these really severe anxiety attacks. I’d been behind the couch for the past four days. That’s where I felt safe. My good friend came around to the house to check up on me and my wife Jess told him what was wrong.

He offered me a joint and I was like, “No, I don’t smoke that shit.”

I was an ex-drug addict and ran an anti-drug company — it was not a great idea for me to be smoking weed.

He told me to shut the fuck up and put the joint in my mouth.

Five minutes later, for the first time in however many days, I was standing outside on the stoep with him, having a cup of coffee. It was the best feeling ever. That’s how my journey with cannabis started. The anxiety has gone, for the most part.

Today, I’m a weed activist. I’ve seen the injustice of really, really good people getting fucked by really bad laws. I know I didn’t end up doing it personally but I believe I helped in making it legal. My report was used during the Concourt hearings. When the judgment was made, we all started sobbing. We sat there on the bench and just sobbed. It was the best day of our lives. — Quintin van Kerken, cannabis activist from Pretoria, as told to Jacques Coetzee, the Adamela data fellow at the Mail & Guardian, a position funded by the Indigo Trust

Jacques Coetzee

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