Legalisation of Marijuana, a tourism outlook
With the news filtering that the unemployment rate is more than 27%, I asked myself what is to be done. Unemployment is the biggest contributor to intergenerational poverty, and this stifles efforts to address inequality in a country that is the most unequal in the world. Since 1994, the democratic state has been trying to address the structural challenges in the economy such as low skills that are not required by the economy and jobless economic growth. In other words, the economic growth has occurred without jobs growth. The IMF indicated that South Africa’s projected economic growth will not exceed 1% and this occurs when the South African Rand has been losing value against major currencies. The economy of South Africa has a huge currency account deficit as part of GDP, as it imports more than it exports.
Economic growth has been primarily based on export promotion and the use of the service economy that includes banking, insurance, business process outsourcing and tourism. The news of 27% unemployment is hardly surprising considering that mining has been shedding jobs, due to higher labour costs in addition to the commodities prices taking a nosedive. The majority of the unemployed are young African Blacks, who reside in townships and rural areas. The unemployed are the primary agents of service delivery strikes, a national sport. Without youth poverty and unemployment in North Africa, the Arab Spring would have never occurred.
Therefore, countries that are stable have low levels of unemployment and are typically egalitarian societies. The question that we as South Africans must answer ask is how are we going to change this reality, asking what is to be done. South Africa’s is known for mining, and it would be incomprehensible that South Africa took a decision not to mine. The Johannesburg Stock Exchange is dominated by mining companies with backwards and forward linkages in the economy. The mantra is that when mining sneezes, the whole economy catches the flu is true.
The South African economy is in a deep winter, as mining has sneezed and the economy caught a cold. Tourism is the ‘’new gold’’ as it attracts more foreign exchange than gold mining, and today it drives the economy like mining did in the past. The growth of tourism took off after the first democratic elections in 1994, and South Africa aims to be one of the top tourism destinations by 2020. It is time that South Africa legalises marijuana, I mean the recreational use of marijuana, not the medicinal use that has dominated the media in recent weeks.
Respected economist Mike Schussler in an article titled ‘’Outrageous ways to create jobs’’ indicated that we must separate between real crime and moral crimes and that the planting and selling of dagga could allow job creation. Marijuana production would allow South Africa to export the billions of dagga that it produces to the growing market of countries that are legalising the recreational and medicinal use of marijuana. South Africa, on the other hand, is resisting the recreational use of marijuana, whilst marijuana is freely available possibly in every 5th house in this country.
The late IFP MP Mario Oriani-Ambrosini, who died of cancer, had lobbied for the alternative cancer therapies, including medical marijuana. In 2015, the national discourse was dominated with news of Robin James Stransham-Ford who applied for assisted suicide that was granted by the High Court in Pretoria. They both succumbed to cancer that could have been alleviated by by-products from marijuana production such as cannabis oil. The state has long lost the ‘’battle’’ against dagga, the only war it is waging is against people, it’s therefore, a war against people. It’s better to tax marijuana production and export this product instead of the waging a war against people.
This would increase tax coffers and the state would limit usage by setting standards. In addition, this would alleviate the bottlenecks that the courts and the prison system get with the arrest, detention and prosecution of each marijuana offender which stood around R240 000. South Africa was able to legalise abortion and gambling to bring them outside of the criminal system, by legalising them and taxing them. This created choice, a fundamental principle of democratic societies. It’s high time dagga is legalised, and that is what is to be done. And then South Africa will benefit from the global tourism tsunami of marijuana tourism.
Mr. Unathi Sonwabile Henama is a tourism researcher and writes in his personal capacity.
Disclaimer: The views expressed here are solely those of the author in his/her private capacity and do not in any way represent the views of Kaya FM.