This article explores the concept of ‘quasilegality’ in relation to two of Africa’s drug crops: khat and cannabis. It argues that the concept is useful in understanding the two substances and their ambiguous relation to the statute books: khat being of varied and ever-changing legal status yet often treated with suspicion even where legal, while cannabis is illegal everywhere in Africa yet often seems de facto legal. The article argues that such quasilegality is socially significant and productive, raising the value of such crops for farmers and traders, but also allowing states to police or not police these substances as their interests and instincts dictate. It also argues that there is no clear link between the law on the statute book and the actual harm potential of these substances. Finally, it suggests that the concept has much wider use beyond these case studies of drugs in Africa in a world where global consensus on drug policy is cracking, and where many other objects of trade and activities find themselves in the blurred territory of the quasilegal.
2017, Third World Quarterly