Cannabis, ganja, weed, dagga , pot, marijuana – a wild plant which has many South Africans up in arms debating over – To dope or not to dope?
This has been the question on the lips of many people over the last three weeks over whether South Africa should legalise medical or recreational marijuana.
Julian Stobbs and Myrtle Clark – dubbed the “dagga couple” are a middle aged couple who live on their plot in north Gauteng and are both in the TV industry.
They have been smoking for almost 20 years in the comfort of their home. The couple claim they are creative people and smoke the drug to enhance their imagination. They are both in the television industry.
In 2010 the couple’s home was raided by police after they received a tip off that there was a drug lab on their premises.
Their home was broken into by the police at 2am on an August morning. The police poked and messed around for six hours in their home, ravaging their belongings in search of weed.
They searched the garden and found no drug lab on the premises. The pair admit they felt criminalised and unfairly treated for the mere fact that they smoke marijuana.
The couple has dedicated their lives for the fight to legalise this drug in the country.
They will try to convince the constitutional court to completely relegalise dagga in South Africa and not only decriminalise it. To decriminalise it means would mean that you will not have a criminal record for possesion of the drug but it will still be wrong within the legislature of the country.
Gareth prince – another dagga activist started his campaign in the late 90’s after the law society in the Cape of Good Hope refused to admit him as an attorney.
They said he was not a fit and proper person because of his two previous convictions of possession.
Prince –a Rastafarian took them to the Cape High Court – they ruled against him. He appealed and lost again. In 2000 he turned to the constitutional court.
Weed smokers believe that they should have the right to put into their body whatever they choose to and government should not take a paternal role by trying to protect them from using marijuana.
The cannabis society spoke on Street Talk SA about their reasons why they feel growing and using cannabis should be legal.
Cannabis has been shown to cure epilepsy and attention deficit disorder in children by using the drug in cookies.
Professor Michael Herbst – Head of the Cancer Association of South Africa explains that while cannabis can have superficial benefits for people and children, it is still harmful and prolonged use could endanger the user’s life. long term use of cannabis has shown to increase the chances of testicular cancer, lung cancer and cancer of the throat.
The Professor says while it seems like the drug has positive and negative attributes – the CANSA institute cannot implement the use of cannabis as it is still deemed as illegal and it is a criminal offense to have it in your possession.
Doctor Tshidi Gule – Founder and Director of the Medispace Wellnes Clinic explained why exactly cannabis is an illegal drug. This is because it is a more harmful than beneficial product and it is a drug and can cause addiction in teenagers and adults,
If cannabis is relegalised in South Africa – Herbst says it is important to know the difference between marijuana and medical marijuana. The THC levels in medical marijuana are reduced significantly which reduces the side effects the drug has on the user. THC in pure marijuana is high and this is how weed smokers prefer it because the high after smoking it is heightened significantly.
Colorado in America is the most recent state to legalise medical and recreational marijuana. Nancy Grace – a legal commentator, television journalist and former prosecuter – says it is a horrible idea.
However, in South we see Mario Ambrosini from the Inkatha Freedom Party (IFP) being a strong front line member in the fight to legalise cannabis – after he was diagnosed with stage four lung cancer last year. He made his appeal in parliament, saying using cannabis and bicarbonate soda is what has kept him alive thus far.
The Minister of Public Service and Administration Lindiwe Sisulu along with Aaron Motsoaledi, the Health Minister said they would strictly consider his request as this is a “caring society”.
However health professionals say cannabis is not needed for cancer.
If this wild plant is legalised – questions around how the growth and use of it will be regulated are hot topics.
These questions remain unanswered – people speculate that it would be treated similar to alcohol laws and if a person is caught driving under the influence for example they will be arrested and jailed.
A report from a UN agency shows that around eight percent of South Africans use the recreational drug, twice the global average of four percent.
For now Dr Gule says the government has a big task ahead of them in the decisions which lie ahead of them.