Joining the Global Revolution?
Have you heard about Swaziland yet? Sandwiched between South Africa and Mozambique, this tiny little country was built for the herb like Messi was born to play football. Boasting fertile mountains and a sub-tropical climate, the Swazi folk have never had to work too hard for their reputation as high grade ganja farmers, and if a certain Dr Ben Dlamini is listened to and understood the whole country could soon be lifting itself out of poverty by re-legalising its cannabis crops. But, before we hear from the good Doctor himself we shall journey into the nameless communities of Swaziland’s mountainous north, to meet the farmers and get a good grasp of the country’s grass roots…
We’re sitting on a rock at the top a steep, forested slope. The Sun is hot, the breeze is cool and the views are nothing short of majestic: the forest stretches down the mountains towards a long, meandering reservoir. Beyond the reservoir more mountains ripple across into the South African distance. The forest is dense, natural, and as old as the mountain that drops away beneath us. Giant cacti are dotted amongst a huge variety of trees, bushes and plants. The patterns and colours of life are reproducing themselves every quarter acre in a natural order of abundance. Flocks, pairs and individual birds dart around the sky below us whilst all manner of insects busy themselves collecting pollen, building nests and humping each other. Gaia in action.
“Cannabis grows very easily in this country, and we can thank the good Lord for that! This amazing plant helps the poor people in the mountains to live with dignity, and in a little comfort. It puts food on our tables, pays for our children to go to school and it provides us money for the luxuries of transportation and mobile telephones. Most of us who have land in the mountains grow ganja, we grow food as well but we need the ganja to trade for money and then we can trade the money for everything else we need to survive. We love to smoke as well – it gives us strength, power and inspires our minds – it keeps our spirits happy and free!”
“There are no really big plantations out here, not like Morocco or India; the biggest ones have about a thousand plants in them and the bigger farmers will have lots of plots dotted around the place, but most of the country’s ganja comes from small family plots. Everyone in these mountains gets their money from the ganja crops, everyone. The people who don’t grow get jobs trimming the plants, or they work as mechanics or in shops – places where people spend their ganja money. We don’t have many problems with the police, but sometimes the government is under pressure from the international police so they have to send our police into the mountains to burn crops and arrest people, but they only do it for the newspapers to write about. We always know when the police are coming because there is only one road they can use to get here so sometimes our crops get burned but they never know whose land the plants are on, and they can never find us to arrest us because we hide in the forest until they’ve gone!”
Another grower, an ex-pat, told us about his adventures with the Swazi police:
“The cops here are alright, the first time they caught me with anything it was with five kilos trying to cross the border – that ended in a hundred and fifty US dollar fine. A couple of years later I had a row with one of the locals, they told the cops I was growing so they raided my house and found two and a half kilos. The lawyer told me I should expect to pay a big fine or go to prison because it was my second offence, but when the case went to court the cop in charge told the judge that it was my first offence so they gave me another hundred and fifty dollar fine. It’s not like South Africa here, the cops aren’t so easy to corrupt – if a cop gets caught taking money he’ll be a disgrace to his family and community and have to move away from the place he grew up – I didn’t pay the cop to say what he said, he was just a good guy and he knew I was a good guy so he made sure justice was done, that’s what it’s like in this country.”
It’s pretty much all good news from a smoker’s perspective as well, especially right now, thanks to an influx of quality genetics from overseas:
“Years ago three guys came over from Europe, they were growing some amazing weed, and producing great seeds as well – they were real professionals. After a few years of establishing themselves and their crops a few of the local guys got jealous and robbed them; they stole all their seeds and it destroyed their operation, but the thieves were stupid. They didn’t know how to grow properly so the weed they got from the stolen seed was not so good, and all the genetics were grown out and lost in one or two seasons, but because they’d stolen the seed they were afraid to go back to the Europeans to ask for help growing it. More recently some new guys came from Europe, they brought lots of good seed and they’re working with some of the local farmers again, trying to teach us how to grow properly and how to produce good seed crops.”
Just what knowledge the Swazi farmers have absorbed and how long they manage to maintain the genetics of this lucky second chance remains to be seen, but, as you are reading this, Swaziland’s secret and hidden fields are once again glistening all year round with the sparkling trichomes from a global gene pool; Cheese, Blueberry, Blue Cheese, Lemon Skunk and White Widow are all popular, but the diversity is so strong that every connoisseur smoker in the country will be able run off a list of strains his favourite growers are playing with. The famous Swazi Gold seems to have been lost to history though, that’s if it ever existed in the first place. Was it a specific strain or was it a misunderstood nickname for Swaziland’s cannabis crop as a whole, Swazi Gold or Swazi gold?
Either way, as a tourist out here it’s hard to avoid the stuff, “just don’t smoke it in public or wave a bag of it in a cop’s face and you’ll be fine. Some people here are so brainwashed by the Christian preachers that they think it’s even illegal to talk about cannabis! If those people see you smoking they’ll call the cops to get you busted and actually believe they’re doing you and the world a favour, these are the dangerous people, the dinosaurs that still need to be educated!”
However, cannabis isn’t just a plant that can be used as a drug when it’s smoked, “I’ve eaten it every day of my life and never been high once!” claims Dr Ben Dlamini, “my grandfather grew it and his grandfather grew it, we eat it to maintain a healthy body and mind – look! I’m an old man but I can still move and dance when I feel the rhythm, and my mind is strong, sometimes I forget things, but so do all people, this why we have a pen and paper!”
“When the colonial oppressors came here they created The Opium and Habit Forming Drugs Act of 1922 and The Pharmacy Act of 1929 to criminalise us for growing and using cannabis. They wanted to protect the colonial cotton industry in Egypt, but now Swaziland is independent and we have a constitution which supports a very good anti-competition law. This means that the colonial laws of oppression are unconstitutional because they protect the cotton industry. We have new laws drawn up that are waiting to be heard by parliament, but even if parliament does not hear the laws we will take the case to the national courts to complete the formality of striking these illegal laws from our lives. That will be quicker than parliament, but it will be much better if it goes through parliament because then we will have new laws to replace the old ones.”
“There is not much opposition to what we are trying to do in this country, I am famous here, everyone knows I am the biggest activist trying to legalise cannabis and people always smile and stop to talk with me in the street, most people are very friendly with me and it is only the people who don’t know the arguments that are against it. This plant can uplift our whole nation from poverty – it can clothe us, fuel us, provide medicine for us, it can feed us, employ us and we can even live in houses made from it. I know a lot of people like to smoke it, I don’t care about that, I’ve never smoked it, but if people want to smoke then let them smoke…”
“The US has been sitting on our necks for one hundred years now, conning the world with their fake propaganda and making sure our expensive medicines do us no good. They made us criminals for using this plant which is so important, and it is indigenous to our culture as well – my grandfather’s grandfather is what makes it indigenous!”
But Swaziland is a small, relatively powerless country, don’t you worry about a negative reaction coming from more powerful neighbours, or the US?
“The Colombian president said that the world must sort out this problem together, but if we wait until everyone is ready to legalise then it will never happen. Some countries have to lead and when we take the lead everyone will be able to see how this plant can lift the whole world out of poverty and liberate us from oppression. If South Africa legalises it will be very good for us, but we are not connected with their campaigners and whatever they decide will not affect our decision. The world cannot wait any longer – soon there will be an abundance of everything for everyone and many of our problems will be solved when we learn to use this plant properly, it gives me great excitement when I think of the future for this country, and for all the people of the world!”
So, unlike Uruguay, the Swazi’s are planning on introducing laws that will legislate for all uses and applications of the cannabis plant. Their revolution is far from cut and dried yet though:
“Back in 2009 Rwanda had very similar laws ready for their parliament to vote on, but the laws were never heard – the man who was responsible for the laws never turned up to present them, so we think he was bought off by the US. Our laws have been ready to be heard by parliament since December 2012, and they’ve made it on to the list of acts to be heard three times but each time our health minister, the very good Benedict Xaba, has failed to turn up to present the laws so I’m starting to worry that he might have been bought off as well.”