by David Downs
Starting June 11, several billion of this world's inhabitants will stop whatever they're doing to watch the FIFA 2010 World Cup International Soccer Tournament, held for the first time on the continent of Africa — in South Africa. What many might not know is South Africa has a major cannabis claim to fame: the legendary, ultra-potent dagga dubbed “Durban Poison.” According to Bill Weinberg, a former High Times editor, and author of the new book Cannabis Trips (May-Running Press), South Africa's port city Durban is smack dab in the middle of KwaZulu-Natal, “the garden province,” home to fine wine, great beaches, and the mystical “Durban Poison.”
“It's like skunk in Northern California,” Weinberg says. “It's something like a holy grail — a legendary strain going back 25 to thirty years that's been lost to hybridizing. Lots of places on the web will sell seeds for Durban Poison but whether it's the same stuff that people were smoking in the Seventies and the Eighties is another question.”
Cannabis Trips states: “While skunk is an indica-heavy hybrid, DP is almost pure sativa — therefore producing a very 'up', cerebral high, perfect for hiking along a deserted beach, checking out the scenery.”
Soccer tourists can still get fifteen years in jail for possession of even a small quantity of the stuff in South Africa, Weinberg cautions. Tourists will usually get a small fine, but it's all up to the judge's discretion, making for some potential Midnight Express scenarios. Cannabis remains among the most prohibited substances on the planet, Weinberg notes, which earned him the title of “Mr. Buzzkill” during his tenure at High Times.
“That's sort of why I lost my job," Weinberg explains. "I was considered 'Mr. Buzzkill' and people don't want to read about going to jail and losing their homes and wars going on over drugs in Mexico and the Andes. They just want to get high. I don't buy that. If you're using a substance you should have some awareness of the political realities surrounding it.”
Cannabis Trips contains a “Heavy Trips” section on tourism in Colombia, Mexico, Afghanistan, Kenya, and Indonesia, where drug users face firing squads, heavy imprisonment, and a healthy dose of flogging. South Africa with its fifteen years maximum prison sentence for possession didn't make the Heavy Trips cut. “You have to tell people what the law is,” Weinberg says. “Conscience wouldn't allow me to write a book that wouldn't make people aware of the risks. You damn well better exercise some discretion.”
With its 26 high-profile destinations, the 127-page, soft-cover, full-color, glossy Cannabis Trips is the third in an Ivy Press culture series that includes the Cannabis Companion and the Cannabis Cookbook. Weinberg proved perfect for the global tourism book, since he obsessively covered international narcotics news first for High Times and currently for his own new Global Ganja Report.
An avowed globe-trotting, muckraking leftie, Weinberg notes the drug trade is an integral, if disavowed, component of globalization. Cannabis, coca, poppies, and pills flow globally according to the laws of supply and demand. Marginalized by governments, drugs empower entrepreneurs like Jamaica's recently famous Dudus Coke. The weed haven's highest profile narco-trafficker is something like Muqtada al Sadr meets Bill Gates. He provides services to the poor from his business profits. America's failed extradition effort of Coke should be an opportunity to remind people that our system and our laws created him, Weinberg says.
“There's a reason people like Coke and Pablo Escobar become popular folk heroes, and it has got to do with free trade,” he adds.
“The people of Jamaica, especially the poor have been abandoned by their government, and the economic measures which were in place — officially derided as protectionism — protected to a certain degree the social security of the poor throughout the Western Hemisphere. That's been dismantled in the name of free trade, and the narco-economy is filling the vacuum,” he says. “Was it worth seventy lives to finally capture Dudus Coke?”
Cannabis Trips is available online and wherever cool books are sold. Weinberg frequently updates the Global Ganja Report while writing non-fiction book Pachamama Returns: The New Indigenous Struggle in the Andes.