Slice of life: ‘Cannabis calm saved me’



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

Subscribe to the M&G

These are unprecedented times, and the role of media to tell and record the story of South Africa as it develops is more important than ever.

The Mail & Guardian is a proud news publisher with roots stretching back 35 years, and we’ve survived right from day one thanks to the support of readers who value fiercely independent journalism that is beholden to no-one. To help us continue for another 35 future years with the same proud values, please consider taking out a subscription.

Jacques Coetzee 1
Guest Author

Related stories

Journey through anxious Joburg

A new book has collected writing about the condition of living, yes, with a high crime rate, but also other, more pervasive existential urban stresses particular to the Global South

How to recognise mental illness in children and adolescents

Children are often unable to verbalise their feelings of anxiety or depression, instead presenting with physical symptoms or odd behaviour. Diagnosis and treatment is crucial to set them on a healthy life-long path of managing their illness

Homegrown vs Big Pharma: Who stands to benefit from the legal market for medical marijuana?

Cannabis is scheduled for its South African parole on September 18. Kelly McQue’s handy medical marijuana producers’ guide is an opening salvo against corporate medicine’s demand for exclusive rights to the plant’s healing powers

Othering fatness: Medical professionals’ negative bias towards fat people jeopardises the quality of care

Pontsho Pilane speaks to three women who have found it difficult to access quality healthcare because of medical professionals’ weight bias

Mental health is vital in treating infertility successfully

Women with a history of depression are at greater risk, whereas antidepressant medication can negatively affect men’s fertility

Cannabis Bill carries harsh penalties

The Bill, which was passed by cabinet last week, caps private, personal home possession of cannabis at 600g a person, or 1.2kg of dried cannabis per household

Subscribers only

Covid-19 surges in the Eastern Cape

With people queuing for services, no water, lax enforcement of mask rules and plenty of partying, the virus is flourishing once again, and a quarter of the growth is in the Eastern Cape

Ace prepares ANC branches for battle

ANC secretary general Ace Magashule is ignoring party policy on corruption-charged officials and taking his battle to branch level, where his ‘slate capture’ strategy is expected to leave Ramaphosa on the ropes

More top stories

Journey through anxious Joburg

A new book has collected writing about the condition of living, yes, with a high crime rate, but also other, more pervasive existential urban stresses particular to the Global South

Football legend Maradona dies

The Argentinian icon died at his home on Wednesday, two weeks after having surgery on a blood clot in his brain

Why no vaccine at all is better than a botched...

As Covid vaccines near the manufacturing stage, a look at two polio vaccines provides valuable historical insights

Under cover of Covid, Uganda targets LGBTQ+ shelter

Pandemic rules were used to justify a violent raid on a homeless shelter in Uganda, but a group of victims is pursuing a criminal case against the perpetrators

press releases

Loading latest Press Releases…