We started our day on 21 September with news of roughly 90 students (Grade R-7) from Pulamadibogo Primary School in Soshanguve, Gauteng being hospitalised. The reason: becoming ill after eating R2 muffins allegedly laced with Cannabis.
Reading like an unfortunate cross between a political smear campaign and bad satire, the various articles published over the course of the day reveal that food poisoning is NOT the logical conclusion reached by teachers, local authorities, and even the Democratic Alliance. There is also no mention made of other possible contaminants.
The vendor who sold the muffins was arrested and is under investigation amid reports of children experiencing nausea and vomiting alongside headaches and tummy cramps due to eating his alleged Dagga-contaminated wares.
Food poisoning gets a footnote mention in some of the various articles, if at all. The strange behaviour of the kids was reported alongside kids feeling almost instantly ill. This is not generally associated with Dagga-ingestion.
However, the allegations of the muffins “suspected to be laced with dagga” are plenty. The Sowetan Live has been running with this narrative, publishing a story this evening about a child hallucinating, seeing Spider-Man.
The assumption of the side effects experienced by the youngsters stemming from Dagga without proof reveals that not only our Youth need to be properly educated around Dagga and other drugs. Parents and figures of authority are lacking a crucial understanding of what the Plant is and is not.
It seems as though there are those entities that will toss about Cannabis like a hot POTato simply to further their own political gains, without much regard for how their half-baked schemes impact livelihoods, communities, and kids. They would perpetuate the failed and unjust drug war for just a few more votes.
In our 10 Crisis Points, we specifically look at the importance of honesty with kids around Dagga.
Drug Education for the Youth: Start Telling our youngsters the TRUTH!
The youth of today are more equipped than ever to find the truth for themselves – being economic with the truth only deepens their mistrust of authority and discourages them from seeking guidance where it is needed.
As our dearly departed Julian Stobbs, used to say: “Anybody with a phone with internet access has the key to the sum of all knowledge in their pockets”.
Teenagers experiment with Cannabis. It usually does not take them long to figure out that the drug education they are receiving at school and possibly at home is misinformed and inaccurate. However, few will listen to them because they are “just kids”.
Factually flawed posters in courts, hospitals, and schools that group Cannabis with far more socially and individually harmful substances are nothing short of fear mongering. Misinforming youngsters about the potential harms of Cannabis – and other substances – is unfair.
Proper education on Cannabis use – as well as drug use – is a necessary step in Harm Reduction. This requires educators, law enforcers, and lawmakers to be properly informed about the benefits and potential harms of Cannabis in relation to other substances, so that factually correct information is provided to our youth. What a community learns on public education posters should reflect the latest substantiated facts, not superstitions and personal beliefs of those putting the information out.
Honesty about Cannabis use with the right Harm Reduction steps in place will help our youth understand the necessity of regulations to limit use where relevant (Responsible Adult Use) and to equally allow access where needed (Industrial Use; Health Uses; and Cultural, Traditional, & Religious Uses).
If kids – yes, even the little ones in the lower grades – are properly informed about Dagga, they will know what to expect and can manage any adverse reactions they may have. By the same token, if parents are correctly informed, they are less likely to be swept up in a panic should their kids ingest Cannabis – be it for the sake of experimentation or unwittingly – and have a bad time. If teachers and figures of authority are properly informed, they will know how to keep kids calm and comfortable while the effects wear off. If tabloid journalists brought some integrity to their work, they would not spread the kind of misinformation we have seen today!
Ultimately, we ALL need to do whatever we can to correctly and factually educate ourselves, our youth, our communities, authorities, social service providers, really everyone about Dagga.
PS Your author would like to know if this is ergotism or some other unfortunate case of contaminated ingredients – guess we will have to wait and see.