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!