Hazel Crampton Discusses the Demonisation of Marijuana at the Launch of Her New Book, Dagga: A Short History
The only scent that permeated the Kalk Bay Bookshop at the recent launch of Hazel Crampton’s newest publication was rain on the pavement and the tang of windblown waves. No dreadlocked Rastafarians attended the celebration of the publication of Dagga: A Short History, but when Nancy Richards, the vivacious and much-loved radio personality who joined the author in a weird and wonderful conversation, asked how many folk in the audience had tried the “sacred herb”, at least half of the gathering of suburbanites (average age 55) put up their hands.
Richards, whose book Being a Woman in Cape Town was launched on Women’s Day, sang praises for Dagga. She said it told a “fascinating and eye-opening story of the ‘weed’ as it tumbled through South Africa’s colourful past and into the present. Hazel breathes life and humour into the history and raises many important questions about its future.” Having talked about Dagga as well as about her previous books, The Sunburnt Queen and The Side of the Sun at Noon, on Richards’ SAfm Literature show before, Crampton and Richards share a longstanding rapport.
While doing research on non-indigenous plants and the trade routes that brought them to southern Africa, Crampton discovered mention of dagga. “I was quite surprised because I’d always assumed that because it grows here as a weed it was indigenous,” Crampton admitted. “Dagga came from Arab traders from Southeast Asia some 1 000 years ago, along with other medicinal plants and beads used for trading purposes.”
The author reflected on how the legal status of dagga has changed in South Africa. “For hundreds of years it was completely legal,” she said, “used in traditional medicines, as an Afrikaner home remedy, sold over the counter and advertised in the press. Within a 20-year period it went from being completely acceptable to being completely outlawed.”
To hear Crampton’s take on the demonisation of dagga was utterly fascinating. She advocates for dagga being legalised, licensed and taxed. To discover more about this intriguing matter, buy the book. At just 90 pages, it’s a quick read, “for short attention spans,” Crampton says, laughing.
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- Dagga: A Short History by Hazel Crampton
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