Mainstream Media Blues

By |Published On: December 10th, 2012|

We live in a democracy. We are all free to speak our minds and have an opinion. If we feel so strongly about a particular subject we have the right to perhaps write a letter to a national publication or post our ventings on a social media platform. If we chose the latter and make our feelings known on the internet, there are no infocops who edit the content, check it’s credibility or verify the claims. You, as a reader must take it with a pinch of salt and, if necessary, if it doesn’t sit well with you, you can prove or disprove it by research at your leisure.

Now say there is a letter in the inbox of a national newspaper and it catches the editorial team’s eye and they publish it.  It turns out that the letter is full of falsehoods and it does nothing but discredit the publication. Or so you may think. Trouble is, if it’s in the newspaper, many people will suppose that it’s got to be true, won’t they?

A jpeg arrived in our inbox today of a letter to the Editor of a Cape Town newspaper. This particular letter had been given a great deal of prominence within the letters page, pretty much letter of the weekend. It was written by a doctor, presumably a learned man, a person used to research and information gathering. He has the unenviable job of being a GP in one of Cape Town’s most notorious gangland suburbs. He must see a great deal of  sadness and strife in a suburb of the Cape Town metro that has areas which are impoverished &  crime ridden. Drug use is rampant among a disillusioned, unemployed youth, drug related crimes are out of control and the authorities battle to keep society safe.
In his letter he mentioned addictions and addicts. This particular area has an extremely high use rate of alcohol, methamphetamine ‘tik’, methcathenone ‘kat’, heroin & heroin mixtures such as ‘nyope’, and mandrax.  Ordinarily, cannabis (dagga) would also be on this list of toxic, dependence producing substances, if you are to go with the doctor in the newspaper’s  opinion. He sees nothing but negativity and suffering surrounding drugs in his community. He sees families torn apart by substance abuse. He must be an angel to do his job in such an environment & we do not blame him for lumping dagga with all the other drugs but it is time to set the record straight.

The letter aired his concerns over the legalisation of Dagga. In his view it would be a grave mistake were it to happen in South Africa. He cited studies from around the world claiming amongst other things, dagga was ’20 times more carcinogenic than tobacco’, and suggested that because dagga was always smoked with tobacco, this obviously increased the likelihood of cancer. There were no references / links given for these ‘studies’. Nothing could be further from the truth. If the good doctor had bothered to do some 21st century research he would have been amazed at a completely different worldwide view that has emerged over the last ten years.
Cannabis has now been proved to treat an array of cancers, THC in fact helps maintain lung function. That is a lot of information for the doctor who’s been fed the evils of Dagga all his career to swallow.

He also suggested that the active ingredient (singular) in the plant was linked to heart attacks and by being under the influence of the plant a user was ‘twice as likely to have a road accident‘. Now, a little research on the doctor’s part would have revealed the plant has over 300 active ingredients and non of them have been linked to a heart attack. Nobody has ever died from ingesting cannabis. Furthermore, in the places around the world where dagga has been legalised or decriminalised, driving fatalities decrease but primarily because alcohol sales drop as people turn to a much safer non toxic form of relaxation and socialising. We all know too well the destruction to people and families alcohol has, and we also know the dangers tobacco poses to ones health. There’s a warning on the pack if you care to read it….

He cited an Australian study (which was, in fact, a New Zealand study) that suggest the earlier dagga smoking starts, the more the likelihood that a person would develop mental problems, a drop in IQ, and if a person is susceptible to mental health conditions, Dagga may exacerbate the condition. If he’d read the whole report, he would have noticed it concluded that Dagga smoking increased the danger of mental problems in young minds but posed no threat to adult minds. It underlined this by defining the adult mind as being over 18 years.

There is no doubt that there is a large amount of dagga being consumed in his suburb and it is probably quite easy to obtain. The same people who sell the dagga also sell the above-mentioned hard drugs. The police and the community are trying their best but nothing seems to work. You would think that this would make the doctor think twice about the present situation. By being illegal and uncontrolled, it’s easier to get dagga than it is to get alcohol if you’re a minor. Hmmm…
Another objection the doctor had to legalising Dagga was the threat of a slowing of the economy due to lower productivity and lower school grades. Again, after a bit of research he would have found out in countries that have liberal but regulated policies towards dagga, it becomes much harder for minors to access the plant and the country’s GDP’s have not taken a nose drive due to the population all being on dope.

As a parting shot, the doctor suggests it is time to stop relying on the law to deal with the dagga (and drugs in general) problem. It was time to educate the population about the dangers of drug taking.
We couldn’t agree with him more on this one. The trouble is, the good doctor shot himself in the foot. His ‘educational’ letter contained some glaring examples of old propaganda, negativity and disinformation surrounding the plant. If the kids of his suburb find out he’s been lying about the effects of dagga…they won’t believe a thing he says about the effects of tik, coke, kat, nyaope and mandrax.
In our view, the only time dagga becomes problematic is when it’s mixed with tobacco, alcohol,  tik and other stimulants. Dagga, used by adults, without tobacco, in moderation, without other stimulants and depressants, is a safe, non toxic relaxant with huge health benefits. Cocktails, as we all know, are lethal. Basic ‘drug’ education.

The saddest part of this letter was the prominence it was given and, of course, the negative headline that accompanied it, ‘Futures go up in smoke with dagga’.

It’s time to soften the stance on Dagga, as is happening worldwide. It is a ‘soft’ drug and shouldn’t even be in the same sentence as ‘hard’ drugs like tik, heroin, mandrax and cocaine. It is inconceivable how dagga remains, to this day, a schedule 1 drug in South Africa ‘with no medical benefits whatsoever’, alongside heroin and mandrax. Dagga is a wonderful scapegoat. If you want to blame something, blame Dagga.

Hopefully, with real education, the truth about this complex and ancient plant will surface once again. Maybe, one day, Cape Town Sunday newspapers will report on the positive benefits of this ancient, benign plant. If, for whatever reason, a person decides to use the dagga plant, the risks are minimal and the benefits are vast. It is an adult choice and, as such, dagga does not suit everyone. Of all the people who use this plant worldwide, the overwhelming majority do so with no ill effects whatsoever. Dagga is not addictive so, if it does not agree with you, do not use it. If someone tells you they are addicted to dagga, it has nothing to do with the dagga.

On behalf of all dagga users in South Africa, be it for relief from pain or instead of a glass of wine at the end of the day or all the other reasons in between, we implore the doctor, with all his knowledge and life experience, to take a deep breath and re-examine his dagga knowledge. As for the newspaper that published the letter with such prominence, you just see the word dagga and there it goes! To the top of the page!

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About the Author: Jules Stobbs

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  1. Aubrey John DeBliquy April 8, 2013 at 4:59 pm - Reply

    I hope this reply was posted to set the record straight in the same publication where the original misinformation was printed. This is precisely the sort of nonsense which has lead us to this totality distorted and prejudiced state of affairs.

  2. Benjamin December 12, 2012 at 6:43 am - Reply

    I support you efforts and wish that all drugs where legalised, BUT a word of caution, from the link you gave “overwhelming number of studies that cite marijuana as a potential cancer treatment” the key word is potential. Anyone who has an idea of statistics and the nature of research would be very hesitant to put much stock in one or even a number of studies, it takes around 20 years of research to go from a potential idea to a drug that is prescribed. That may seem slow, but it is for very good historical reason, most ideas are dead ends. I suggest reading this excellent paper, “Why Most Published Research Findings Are False” available here: or a general layman discussion here: . I do have issues with current research, and think we Ben Goldacre’s latest book “Bad Pharma” is brilliant, but just because the system isn’t perfect doesn’t mean Cannabis is a cure, or even likely.

    Cannabis has and is being used to treat certain symptoms, and there is some promise there for other uses, but if you have lung, or any other cancer go see a medical doctor, see three. Most patients do not have the skill to weigh the evidence, and until there is a broader consensus the approach should be caution not cutting edge. I advocate more trials and that way if conventional methods fail, patients can go on trials and long term we will see.

    Once again, thank you for all the work, and for fighting for my rights Re: drug war

    • Aubrey John DeBliquy April 8, 2013 at 5:15 pm - Reply

      I disagree entirely with the government intervening in culinary freedom which is an inalienable right as is the freedom of speech which I now use to say the following.

      Pharmaceutical companies producing synthetic chemical concoctions are the ones experimenting with our health and the record of disasters in spite of the much deified disciplines attributed to this industry speaks for itself from thalidomide onwards.

      Traditional medicines found in nature are inherently more effective as they evolve from the same environment as homo sapiens and have been our symbiotic sojourners in the plant world from the dawn of time.

      I have no doubt that the prohibition of any right to consume anything is not only a human rights violation, but is totally inefficient and self defeating in practice. A hundred odd years ago, everything was legal for adults who could purchase anything in a chemist. The “nanny state” should not have and should never intervene. People will not go out and start taking harmful substances any more than they consume poisons today that can be bought in a supermarket. In the mean time untold thousands have died unnecessarily because of not having access to the disease preventing, and medicinal benefits of this astonishing plant, the cancer curing benefits of which have already been extensively researched and demonstrated. As recently as 70 years ago hemp was in the medicine box of almost every doctor, and when it was prohibited it was done against the advice of medical authorities and in the face of scientific research which has only grown more glowing over the years. The fact is that studies have now proved conclusively that in spite of the higher incidence of carcinogens in dagga smoke, this translates if anything into a lower incidence of cancers even when smoked.

      Dr Donald Tashkin of UCLA conducted research on over 600 patients which proved that heavy cannabis smokers showed a lower incidence of cancers than people who smoked nothing at all.

      If government has any role in this regard it should be from an educational and health point of view. The marketplace is quite capable of looking after the things that governments do very inefficiently and counter productively. Air plane companies will still do drug tests for pilots to protect themselves and their passengers as will companies employing drivers. In the mean time recent successes in reducing tobacco smoking dramatically by as much as 50% were achieved entirely through educating people and not by jailing them or oppressing them in any way.

      For the record, Cannabis is a miracle nutrition in it’s raw non-hallucinogenic form, the very form that the present prohibitionist strategy renders almost totally inaccessible to mankind. To make matters worse, a lot of potentially beneficial cannabinoids have been bread out of the plant as growers over the last 100 years have intentionally cultivated in favour of higher THC strains. Pharmaceutical giant GM already has extensive green house plantations in the south of England where they are actively researching the myriad of benefits available from the more than 66 cannabinoids that have been identified. The problem with cultures outside Africa and Asia has been an inability to conceive of hallucinogenic facets of the nutritional value of plants like Cannabis. Medical use of cannabis is traced back over more than 2000 years, and ten thousand years of association intimately between our ancestors and this plant.

  3. Tielman December 10, 2012 at 7:36 pm - Reply

    The expected has happened.

    However there is hope as I remember the antics of one Peter Sellers in the movie “I love you Alice B. Toklas”, where he plays a Los Angeles lawyer whose impending marriage is causing him sleepless nights. Unknown to him a hitch hiker he helped repays his kindness by baking him some brownies. Hash Brownies. Hilarity breaks out.

    Obviously the good doctor/editor combo above are candidates for some cookies.. I assure you the articles that would ensue will be of a far more honest and uplifting nature!

    We must have an ambassador to Portugal. I assume this tax sponsored position allows the incumbent to provide us at home information as to how the country he represents us to is managing it’s DRUG PROBLEM? In fact how about we talk to the Portuguese ambassador to SA ourselves?

    And I know the American inspired Republican party War On Drugs failure is just that. Look at the faces of vacuous (Ronald mcdonald Reagan) money grubbing ( Richard Millhouse Nixon- later impeached) lying (read my lips George Bush Snr: no more taxes) puppy minded shrub ( son of former liar and head of CIA before becoming a one term president – big NO NO) also George, junior. All liars who thought they were above the laws they were promulgating.

    You want to write a letter to a Sunday paper?

    Lets do it



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