Sometimes you arrive at a spot where the extra dimension of weed is indispensable. On the continent of dense jungles and endless savannah, these moments are far from rare. And above all in Uganda, the so-called ‘pearl of Africa’. Add to this bumping into someone who invites you into his five-star lodge and the quest for ganja has started. Cannabis is everywhere in the world, however, illegality and travelling from place to place can make the search more difficult. Therefore, five tips for buying weed on the streets in Uganda (but applicable for Africa in general):
1. Be careful, always!
In Africa weed is associated with heavy criminal activities. As reads the following online statement of Ugandan cop Wesley Nganizi: ‘Marijuana gives people fake confidence, they end up in crimes like stealing, robberies and rapes. It is extra dangerous for the youth as marijuana catalyses the criminal brain. They steal valuable items like handbags, phones and parts of cars during traffic.’ This is why official punishments for smoking are severe, up to fifteen years. Moreover, governments officials are corrupt so they don’t mind emptying the pockets of a muzungu (white person). An American friend of mine got arrested in Nairobi. The police asked him for 1000 dollars in cash. He talked it down to 250 dollars but still, there are better ways to spend that money. So: When you find somebody you expect to have weed, don’t run to him immediately but make sure you scan the surroundings for cops, militaries or security guards.
2. Find your man or woman
The best spots for scoring are places where transport is unloading, hangouts for fishermen or a market. Is there no such spot around, ask for a ‘bodaboda-driver’ (motor-taxi driver) who isn’t too old. Just someone you could picture smoking weed with his buddies. It is possible that he takes you to a stall which sells candy, bracelets or cigarettes but has a double drawer. I also heard stories of mama’s with food stalls who hide the mary-j between the plates. For safety, it is usually better to ask the bodaboda-driver to get the weed and hand it over to you.
3. Know you languages
With just ‘do you have something to smoke’ or a gesture you will be taken to the nearest street-seller with cigarettes. ‘Ganja’ could work but it is always smart to have some local expressions ready. In local languages, it is never ‘weed’ but always something like ‘bangi’, ‘ladi', ‘sada', ‘omuggo’ or ‘akawiri’. How to discover these phrases? Just start a little chitchat with a local person about police, weed, how illegal it is and ask him how they call ‘it’ here.
4. Don’t be the quality smart-ass on the streets
Most of the weed in a place comes from the same harvest. It is planted in the jungle, banana plantations or the bush. In backpacks or just in plastic bags trucks with beans, bananas or corn the load is brought to the villages. Here the joints are rolled. In the little towns, you don’t really have a choice. In bigger places where you stay longer and contact more people, it is, of course, possible to try different places. Because of the risk it is better just to buy, should it be of a lesser quality bulk: too bad. It can’t cost you that much anyway because in Uganda weed is really cheap. The best deal I made was twelve joints for 5000 Shilling (1,25 euros) behind a clothing stall on Owino market in Kampala. Buy a little pipe on this market too. It is recommended to take the weed out of the paper and remove the seeds and little stems.
5. Found good weed? Go back and buy more!
You never know where you’ll end up the next day. Make sure you get rid of everything before crossing any borders…
Ganja hotspots in Uganda
The Old Taxi Park
Parts of Kisekka Market
Nsambya Railway Quarters
Text & photo's: Anki