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A Journey Through Thick and Thin: Tefo Mohale’s Love Letter to the Holy Herb

A Journey Through Thick and Thin: Tefo Mohale’s Love Letter to the Holy Herb

Tefo Mohale has been a regular cannabis user for 30 years and has written a love letter to the plant. His is his journey how cannabis rather than alcohlol helped him through his highs and lows.

Tefo Mohale

16 January 2024 at 10:00:00

I heard them read another of those “dear alcohol” letters on radio the other day and decided to pen one to you, the dagga plant, Mthimkhulu.

But, unlike those letters, this is not about how I regret the first day we met or how I want nothing to do with you for the rest of my life. Sure, my use of you is far more occasional than it was in the past, but mine is a love story – a cultural love story that can be best understood if you know my life story.

I was about four years old when I survived my parents’ divorce. At just eight years old, while visiting my grandparents’ home and sent out to fetch a cousin from crèche, I went my own way. A letter penned by the lawyers my mother had approached to help change the custody order at the time reads, “the child has now, out of his own, run away from his grandmother because he is unhappy there”.

For my mother, the reunion was biblical. For me, it was the first time I had looked into a woman’s eyes and seen true love.

I could see her commitment to our future and, somehow, I knew this was a chance to see where my love for books and reading would take me.

So I started foraging company reports wherever I could find them, looking for faces in executive group photos I felt connected to, and bombarded Mom with “help me go to a better school” letters that needed to be posted each week. After a lifetime of “regrets”, PJ Badenhorst at the United Bank (now Absa) called us in. Mama wept and a new age of enlightenment began for me.

It was while at one of South Africa’s most prestigious private schools that I met you, Mthimkhulu. First through song, whenever senior classes took charge of morning chapel assembly. I remember the spirit of those reggae-filled assemblies, and those morning prayers planted a seed in me that took some five years to germinate. In my final year, I started experimenting with dreadlocks.

But it wasn’t until I got to university that I got my first kiss of the green and that’s when our love affair truly blossomed, Mthimkhulu.

By this time, the vulgarity and injustice of racial inequality were the clearest reality in my mind and you, Mthimkhulu, were the biggest reason I was able to survive any of it.

In fact, if it were not for my dagga smoking, growing up in South Africa would have driven me completely mad or even killed me.

When I woke up that morning and realised alcohol was not my thing, you, Mthimkhulu, were my guiding light. When this decision to stop drinking drove away “friends” and sentenced me to a lifetime of “antisocial living” because I was deemed “too serious”, cannabis was my solace.

When the green sent me to higher states of consciousness and inspired me to stop eating animals and live on a plant-based diet, I knew I was on the right track.

I couldn’t prove it to disapproving family but I could feel that it was this way of life and my dagga meditation that would help me reconnect to my own divinity.

When heated economic debates erupted in my varsity classes and whiteness shined, Mthimkhulu reminded me that my lecturers were, in fact, carefully chosen apartheid snipers.

I didn’t have the language of the beautiful Fallists but, somehow, I was quietly fluent in it. That’s why I saw that two-second tap on the head at graduation as the ultimate bow to colonial education and “white supremacy” and decided to give it the middle finger.

That decision to drop out of university was probably the most difficult I’ve ever had to make because I knew I was stepping out of line – out of Babylon – out of the “global consumer capitalism” line.

It’s been five years since South Africa’s government was instructed to change laws governing you, Mthimkhulu; 50 years since I was born – yet, my mother still believes my vegan ways are no different from those of a drunk.

Fortunately, some of your old friends are still continuing the fight for your dignity. A mutual “friend” has just started a cannabis club in Soweto, using the same business model that some of your new friends have been using to take advantage of the so-called “flexibilities of Prince” in our law. A social club for adults who choose to use this plant and who enjoy a plant-based diet.

As the folks at the High Times magazine once said, “responsible marijuana users want to be treated like customers, not criminals” and “whenever we come together to share food or cannabis, we create a powerful ceremony of community, one that should be celebrated”.

My celebration, dearest Mthimkhulu, started nearly three decades ago and it doesn’t look like the festivities are about to end anytime soon.

Yours faithfully, Tefo


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