Zimbabwe News and Internet Radio

Don’t legalise mbanje in Zimbabwe

By Tafi Mhaka

Mary-Louise Parker is simply sublime in her role as Nancy Botwin in the hit TV Series Weeds: a show about the intoxicating life of a widow, who is a mother of two teenage boys, and her comic exploits selling marijuana in a posh upper class neighbourhood. The show is extremely funny and makes for excellent viewing.

File Picture: Southerton Police Station details display part of the 41 bags of mbanje found on a truck in Harare in January 2012
File Picture: Southerton Police Station details display part of the 41 bags of mbanje found on a truck in Harare in January 2012

But what is really striking about this drugged up comedy, is the innocent manner in which Botwin finds herself engaging in a bunch of illegal activities and meeting an extraordinary mix of dialectic and apparently sincere characters whom you could easily mistake for the ever-smiling baker at the mall nearby, the stammering doctor who lives right next to your house – or the high school science teacher who is your jogging partner.

Marijuana is the drug of choice for so many well-to-do professionals who barely match the usual descriptions of people who smoke marijuana. Plus, there is this proliferation of references to cannabis and other drugs in popular culture. Jimi Hendrix, the greatest guitarist of all time for most rock enthusiasts, penned a rock classic called Purple Haze, which the Jimi Hendrix Experience released as a single on March 17, 1967.

Rolling Stone Magazine rates this song as the second greatest guitar song of all time. Because of the psychedelic nature of Purple Haze most people regard the song as an ode to the giddy and mind numbing effects of marijuana. To quote a few lyrics from the song, Hendrix sings: Purple haze all in my eyes, Don’t know if its day or night, You got me blowin’, blowin’ my mind Is it tomorrow, or just the end of time?

As debauched, groovy or unacceptable as a celebration of marijuana Purple Haze sounds, at least Hendrix made a song of it. Beats Music founder Dr Dre went a notch higher than Hendrix and released an album titled The Chronic in 1992.

Chronic is a moniker for synthetic cannabis that is sold by adult shops, tobacconists and herbal retailers in the USA. Then in 2001, Dr Dre soared to fresh dizzy heights with his second hit album: The Chronic 2001. The album cover simply had a picture of a green cannabis plant on the cover. Both albums are regarded as seminal offerings in the annals of hip-hop and fitting tributes to every day marijuana use.

The late Jamaican reggae icon Bob Marley, a confessed Rastafarian who smoked weed and died of a rare skin cancer at the age of 32, also honoured marijuana in his music. In Kaya, he sings: I feel so high, I even touch the sky, Above the falling rain, I feel so good in my neighbourhood, so here I come again.

What about pop music though? Miley Cyrus had a monster hit in 2013 titled We Can’t Stop Now. In the song, the former 25-year-old star of Disney’s hit TV show Hannah Montana, who is followed by an astonishing 37.6 million people on Twitter, makes references to using Molly in the song.

Cyrus sings: “So la da di da di we like to party Dancing with Molly Doing whatever we want This is our house This is our rules”. Molly or 3,4- Methylenedioxymethamphetamine, which is also commonly known as ecstasy, is a psychoactive drug used primarily as a recreational drug.

Miami-based rapper Rick Ross also made mention of Molly in a song titled “U.O.E.N.O. This is what he said then: Put molly all in her champagne She ain’t even know it I took her home and I enjoyed that She ain’t even know it. After this single dropped, Reebok – the global athletic footwear and apparel company – dropped an endorsement deal the company had with Ross after a scandal erupted over the inference he made to Molly as a date rape drug.

There are plenty of colourful and funky references to drugs and drug use in popular culture. You will find references to marijuana in reggae songs, rock songs, movies and TV series in particular. And although drugs are synonymous with corruption, organised crime, violence and bloodshed, there are growing calls for the legalisation of marijuana in Zimbabwe. But nobody has taken the time to tell us that marijuana may be a gateway drug: those who smoke it may move on to hard and lethal drugs.

A study using longitudinal data from the National Epidemiological Study of Alcohol Use and Related Disorders found that adults who reported marijuana use during the first wave of a survey were more likely than non-users to develop an alcohol use disorder within 3 years; while marijuana users who already had an alcohol use disorder at the outset were at greater risk of their alcohol use disorder worsening. Marijuana use is also linked to other substance use disorders including nicotine addiction.

Predictably, there are different schools of thought about the health benefits or the harm regular marijuana use may yield. But this debate over marijuana should be about the kids. This is all about the kids out there. This is all about the future of the kids in crèches, primary schools and high schools in Zimbabwe. This is all about the rather grown up kids enrolled at colleges as well. Has anyone bothered to tell the kids about the potentially fatal repercussions of regular drug use?

Has anyone told the kids that Whitney Houston, the Greatest Love of All hit maker, drowned in the bathroom of a Beverly Hills hotel suite in 2012 after getting high on cocaine? Has anybody taken the time to tell the kids that Lisa Robin Kelly, the sweet and funny star of hit TV series That 70s Show, died of multiple drug intoxication in 2013? Will anyone let the kids know that that Cory Monteith, the musician and star of hit TV series Glee, died after he ingested a toxic mix of heroin and alcohol?

Has any pro-marijuana activist told the kids that Chris Kelly, one half of rap duo Kriss Kross, which is famous for releasing the hit song Jump Jump, died of a drug overdose in 2014? Has anyone bothered to tell the kids that Academy Award-winning actor Philip Seymour Hoffman, star of Boogie Nights The Big Lebowski, The Talented Mr Ripley, Almost Famous, Punch-Drunk Love and Mission impossible III, died of an acute mix of drug intoxication, including heroin, cocaine, benzodiazepines and amphetamine?

Has nobody has bothered to tell the kids that nobody really knows what Jimi Hendrix died of? But something he ingested or inhaled on September 18, 1970, led to his sad demise at the tender age of 27. Do not legalise mbanje.