A sticky icky situation: the case for legalising marijuana

NOTE: Cannabis is currently illegal in South Africa. Yebo Students does not in any way encourage the use of cannabis. The purpose of the article is to open debate. Please leave your comments at the end of the article. We would love to know your thoughts and opinions on cannabis use in South Africa in particular.

Marijuana…is also known as Dagga; Bud; Cheeba; Doobie; Devil’s Lettuce; Durban Poison; Ganja; Thai; Spliff; Sticky Icky; Laughing Grass; and sometimes even ‘Art Supplies’  to name a few. According to the World Health Organisation, it is the most widely cultivated, trafficked and abused drug on the planet. Over HALF of all drug seizures worldwide are weed seizures, with over 147 million people around the world who smoke the stuff…yet, it still remains illegal in most countries, South Africa included, and we need to ask ourselves, why?

As most avid weed smokers know by now, the ‘Medical Innovation Bill’ (a bill to legalise Cannabis in SA for medical, industrial and economic purposes) was introduced in parliament on Wednesday 19th February 2014.

Mario GR Oriani-Ambrosini (from the Inkatha Freedom Party and Member of Parliament), who submitted the bill, was diagnosed with stage four of inoperable lung cancer last year.

Oriani-Ambrosini spoke about how millions of cancer patients suffer every day, because our government won’t bother putting any money into research where no profit can be made. The bill’s purpose essentially involves establishing a couple hospitals, where proper cancer research and medical innovation can take place.

Not only that, but the bill would legalise the medical, commercial and industrial use of marijuana in South Africa, much like these weed-friendly areas around the world;

  • More than half the USA has legalised marijuana in some form (mostly for medical purposes, but Washington and Colorado have legalised it for recreational use)
  • Uruguay was the first country to fully legalise the production and consumption of Cannabis. (Tax revenue generated from sales is being directed toward the prevention of hard drug use)
  • In Europe; Belgium, Croatia, Czech Republic, Netherlands, Spain and Switzerland, have all decriminalized Cannabis.  
  • Back in 2001, Portugal took a huge (and risky) leap, in decriminalizing ALL drugs, which has resulted in halving their addiction rate in 10 years, with drug use rates now being among the lowest of EU states.

But what are some of the pros and cons of legalising marijuana?

Cons:

1. The most common ‘con’ is that weed is a  ‘stepping stone’ drug. Let’s take a typical 18 year old who has smoked weed a few times before, enjoys the feeling of getting high, but is curious about what else he can experience. So he dabbles in magic mushrooms. After the shrooms, he wonders what MDMA feels like, after that, he might try a line or two of cocaine at a grimy club… and before you know it, he’s living in a ditch eagerly awaiting his next fix of heroin. Now that is an extreme example, and it’s most certainly not the case for everyone, but it’s a scary reality that we cannot deny. (One also needs to realise, that if marijuana was legal, it would be regulated, which means that same teenager would purchase the weed from a responsible source, and not from a dodgy drug dealer who goes by ‘JBreezy’,  trying to make an extra buck by offering him something ‘even better’.)

2. Then of course there is driving ‘high’…The Senior investigator at the National Institute on Drug Abuse in America, Marilyn Huestis, says after smoking weed, people generally have more trouble staying in lanes, they struggle to do multiple tasks at once (like changing gears while munching on a Lunchbar?), and there’s a real problem maintaining concentration on long, monotonous drives. Alcohol-related car accidents kill around 1.24 million people a year, but studies on the impact of smoking spliff while driving is much less clear. Another problem is that at the moment, there is no test similar to a Breathalyzer that can check how much THC (the psychoactive compound found in weed) is in a person’s system. Only a blood test— and that’s obviously a little tricky, presenting a few legal and practical constraints.

3. Another risk includes the fact that stoners may suffer from ‘amotivational syndrome’ which is basically the loss of motivation and drive which comes with regular use of the plant. However, PsychologyToday.com claims that researchers have found that levels of dopamine are mainly lower in long-term weed smokers, and those who begun using it at a younger age. Lower dopamine in a part of the brain called the striatum, is linked to less ambition and motivation at a neuronal level. This is why if it was legalised, it is crucial to treat it just like tobacco or alcohol, with strict age restrictions in place.

Pros:

1. The most obvious pro, as Mr Oriani-Ambrosini mentioned in parliament, would be the medical benefits. According to Webmd.com, pain is the main reason people ask for a ‘green’ prescription, says Barth Wilsey, MD, a pain medicine specialist at the University of California Davis Medical Centre. This includes chronic headaches, diseases like cancer, or long term conditions like nerve pain and glaucoma. Doctors in countries where medical marijuana is legal, prescribe weed to treat seizure disorders; insomnia; muscle spasms caused by multiple sclerosis; nausea from chemotherapy; and poor appetite or weight loss caused by diseases like HIV, which is obviously a major issue in South Africa. Medical marijuana can be smoked, vaporized (heated until active ingredients are released but no smoke is formed), eaten, or taken in a liquid form.

2. The second major advantage of legalising weed, would be the massive amount of money the country can make in terms of tax revenues. In California, where medical weed has been legal for a while now, over $14 billion is made annually for the production of marijuana. (That’s R150 billion!) According to Forbes magazine, in 2010, one study was done for the libertarian CATO Institute, which said legalising and taxing weed would increase state tax revenues by about $9 billion (R96 billion) a year and reduce spending on enforcement by about the same amount.

3. Let’s not forget about the thousands of jobs that could be created. Any self-respecting stoner can tell you there are 2 strains of marijuana that can get you high (Sativa & Indica), and there is a third strain ‘Cannabis Ruderalis’, which is where we get ‘hemp’ from. You cannot smoke hemp, but this magical plant has tons of uses including fibre (which lasts way longer than cotton), paper (to save trees), building supplies like ‘hempcrete’ or insulation and special plastics, (which are environmentally friendly) and of course biofuels! South Africa has the perfect weather conditions to grow the plant, and thousands of unemployed people who could benefit from this.

At the end of the day, there are serious pros and there are serious cons for legalising cannabis, but the same can be said about using both tobacco and alcohol. Tobacco kills about 6 million people every year, and alcohol is the cause of 2.5 million deaths annually, but people take part anyway.

There are millions of people around the world who smoke marijuana regardless of the fact that it’s illegal. It’s happening under our President’s nose every single day. Why not take full control of the situation, prevent the black market from thriving, and make something positive out of a sticky icky situation?

log in to rate this
Loading...
(, 0 dislikes)
Profile photo of Ava Dioli
Ava Dioli
Ava Dioli is 25 years young, a Joburger by heart but has been living in Cape Town for over 6 years. She has a B-Tech in public relations specialising in project management, but her true passions are photography, indie electronic music, and art nouveau films. She loves the smell of cement, hates yellow chappies, and hasn't gone to gym in 11 months. She is fascinated by dreams, petrified by praying mantises, and is a firm believer that the youth are going to change our country for the better.

12 Responses to “A sticky icky situation: the case for legalising marijuana”

  1. Profile photo of BattyD

    BattyD

    I don’t think the person who wrote this has ever lived in a township. It’s ok to smoke weed if you’re middle class and at university, but if you’re poor and unemployed and you get hooked, there’s no way in hell you’re ever going to get off that couch and find a job or have any ambition to make something of yourself. Putting an age restriction on it won’t make a difference. You think kids in townships don’t smoke cigarettes? I think being able to buy dagga at your local spaza like cigarettes will make the youth unemployment problem a lot worse.

  2. Profile photo of Rogue

    Rogue

    But young people in townships are getting hold of it regardless of the fact that its illegal…. its going to happen anyway…..making it legal wont increase the amount of people “purchasing” it… if you’re too young to buy it… and you wanna smoke weed, no matter where you live in the world…. you’re going to find a way… same with cigarettes, same with booze.

  3. Profile photo of BornFree

    BornFree

    sure those determined kids will “find a way”…but there are also those young people who are on the borderline, who wouldn’t go out and find a dealer but would certainly try it if they could by it at a shop. why would you take away a deterent for something that has such negative consequences on someone’s life? and dont compare it to booze or ciggies, those cant make someone go mad.

  4. Profile photo of slappy

    slappy

    Weed doesn’t create lazy apathetic people. In fact, it can help people do repetitive jobs without getting bored. A lot of the guys on farms smoke it and it keeps then going nicely throughout the day. Imagine painting a huge wall. It’s way easier with a little bit of dagga and some bob marley playing.

    @bornfree be careful trying to make out like booze is safer than weed. There is plenty of evidence to trash that theory. Some people may experience extreme effects from weed but that’s no reason to criminalise the majority of people who use it with no major issues. I don’t smoke it myself because I don’t like the feeling but I think it should be legal for those who do want to partake.

  5. Profile photo of Rogue

    Rogue

    Whatsup @bornfree . . . of course I’m going to compare it to booze or ciggies… because booze is legal, yet it KILLS 2.5 MILLION people a year. Ciggies….again…. legal…. but they KILL around 6 MILLION people a year.. lets not forget that little thing called cancer…. And now you’re talking about weed making people go “mad”? ….. Do some proper research before making bold statements like that. Im not underestimating the side effects of marijuana … but if you did a little research you will know, that in order for weed to make you go “mad”…. you have to have a serious family history of mental disorders first ie Schizophrenia etc…. it certainly does not affect everyone negatively in that regard… and in fact HELPS millions of people around the world with serious illnesses, who suffer every single day… There is a movie called The Union that I seriously recommend you watch.. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7qbtYY4HFOw 🙂 Peace bro

  6. Profile photo of Yebo Students Admin

    Yebo Students Admin

    In order to get both sides of the argument we wrote to a few substance abuse centres. Here is what one of them replied…

    Hi, you can copy and paste my comments onto your site as I don’t think I want to get involved in a debate, I know what I stand for when it comes to the use of any drug and I cannot convince anyone of the harmful effects of dagga smoking. I read some of the comments on the site and all I can say is that the people in favour of the legalising of dagga must have been high when they left those comments or maybe their brains are already damaged so that they can’t think rational anyway. I don’t like registering on sites so my comments would be really very simple.

    They shouldn’t legalize it because people will never just keep using it for medical purposes, the government in this country should wake up and realize what they are doing and our youth is hit the hardest. But government claim that the youth is the future of this country but they are allowing it to go down the drain. I can say many things as to why dagga should not be legalized but the choice to use it lies with every individual. You see, I am not denying that dagga can be used for medical purposes or that it can actually be beneficial for medical purposes but what I am saying is that people won’t just use it for medical purposes. If government legalises it, they are just going to add more problems to this country.

    You see, the folly of our youth is:

    They finish school, go to university and get a degree and think they are clever and know it all but make stupid choices just to prove that they can mess up their own lives because it is their human right to do so.

  7. Profile photo of Daniella Star

    Daniella Star

    I really don’t care if it gets legalised! If its going to help people with cancer then cool but whether or not it does it wouldn’t affect me because I don’t do drugs(: Never have,never will!

  8. Profile photo of Simba roars

    Simba roars

    In Colorado, USA the legal sale of cannabis has made over $2 million in tax. This money is going towards drug rehabilitation programs and other worthy causes. Read more below…

    http://www.bbc.com/news/business-26523833

  9. Profile photo of Daniella Star

    Daniella Star

    I doubt in South Africa it would go towards a good cause maybe building Zuma’s cows a swimming pool.

  10. Profile photo of Langa69

    Langa69

    marijuana is a drug, and like any other harmless drug if used irresponsible it definitely will f#*k you up. If used for medical purposes, and the laws and regulation are made strict so that only through legal documentation can one have access to the plant, then i’m down for it. But if you say just legalise without limits, imagine how fast and easy our brothers and sisters will be smoked by it! legalise, YES….ONLY FOR MEDICAL PURPOSES because clearly it has the desired effects whether you like it or not, weed is one of powerful medical herbs.

  11. Profile photo of Loyiso

    Loyiso

    Hmmm, I am in two minds. Legalising it has proven to be successful in other countries, and like @Simbaroars said, the profits made could go into something useful, like rehab centres or programmes. Then again, I am afraid it will influence the younger crowd to try it out at a young age, as they could think “Hmm, if it’s legal, it can’t be THAT bad for me” not realising that their brains are still developing and it could do some serious damage. With the right education system in place, we should be able to get around it though, informing the kids about the potential dangers especially if smoked under the age of 18.

  12. Profile photo of Keaton

    Keaton

    Legalization of this drug for things like cancer specifically is a definite must! Must grandfather passed away from Brain Cancer two days ago and it hasn’t been easy. But maybe if he had some THC oil at least his pain could’ve been relieved and maybe his cancer reduced with minimal costs involved. As for chemo therapy, it’s not natural, it’s not 100% efficient and it’s a business. Medicinal legalization is a must but not recreational.

Leave a Reply

You must be Logged in to post a comment.