While much has been said for and against the legalization of medical dagga in the media recently, what troubles CYPSA most is that pro-legalization argument seems to be originating predominantly with those who are not qualified to comment on the issue, or who are in fact promoting the legalization of dagga for recreational purposes primarily. Certain groups, who are not shy to share with the public that they are regular smokers of dagga, seem to be using the medical issue as a 'Trojan horse' in which to sneak through their own agenda of having dagga legalized, so that they may smoke, sell or cultivate the drug without the fear of being prosecuted.
Whenever we as the medical profession discuss the issue from a medical point of view, individuals who are recreational users of dagga jump to defend the drug. This is a scientific issue that cannot be decided by the public in general. We are amazed when recreational smokers of dagga claim to have first-hand knowledge of the ins and outs of the substance from a scientific and medical point of view. This is not a political or an emotional issue, or one of personal or popular opinion – this is science.
The medical body of scholars and specialists, those who are in fact qualified to discuss the subject, are very concerned regarding the side effects of dagga because of sufficient evidence that shows that the drug is clearly dangerous. The United Nation's watchdog on drug policies globally, the International Narcotics Control Board (INCB) has echoed the feeling of the medical fraternity that to decriminalize dagga on any grounds is misguided. The INCB's annual report commented on new policies in Colorado, USA, by saying that the commercial sale of dagga for medicinal use has led to an increase in motor accidents where drivers were under the influence of dagga, as well as an increase in adolescent dagga related hospital admissions. The United Kingdom is now reclassifying dagga as a harmful drug after its declassification only a few years ago, due to a huge increase in dagga related mental illness amongst the country's youth.
In the United States, dagga is listed and the second most common cause of fatal accidents, after alcohol, due to the impaired coordination and slower reaction times that it causes. Separate studies have been conducted which indicate that dagga can cause heart disease and complications, especially amongst young people. Dagga causes mental illness such as anxiety, paranoia and schizophrenia. Not only have many studies been conducted which reach this conclusion, but there are numerous cases of mental illness caused by dagga which we as an organization have experienced and have had to deal with personally.
All medical substances need to pass through extensive testing and screening processes before they can be registered with the medicine control counsel and other medical bodies. This process can take as long as several years of intensive studies. Side effects of any substance must be documented. Dagga has thousands of metabolites (chemicals produced when a substance is broken down by the body), all of which must be thoroughly tested and documented before dagga can be deemed safe for public consumption and registered as a medicine. Dagga smoke is more dangerous by far than cigarette smoke as it contains far more tar, carbon monoxide and other cancer causing substances. In some cases up to 70% more! Cigarettes are already generally accepted by the public as being extremely toxic and dangerous yet they contain far less toxins than the smoke produced by dagga which we are being lead to believe is a safe drug!
Once dagga is burned (combusted), thousands of chemicals such as ammonia and hydrogen cyanide are produced and enter into the body. These toxins which are produced during combustion are the reason that the smoking of dagga is especially harmful to the human body. Can a substance which contains chemicals such as cyanide and ammonia be considered safe and beneficial? Dagga suppresses the immune system and while it may seem to alleviate some of the symptoms of HIV/AIDS as is often claimed, it is most definitely not a safe way to treat the symptoms of this disease at all.
As the lines between the push to legalize for medicinal and for recreational use have become so blurred, we feel obliged to address the issue of recreational use as well.
Dagga is a gateway drug. In a recent survey conducted with those who come to us for help with drug related problems, all those who were interviewed regarding dagga replied without exception, that it was dagga that lead them into the use of other drugs. All of those who were questioned also responded that there was no doubt in their minds that they were addicted to the drug. Opinion on the 'positive' and enjoyable aspects of dagga use can be misleading due to the existence of primary and secondary reactions to the substance. While high on dagga, users report that their minds are clearer, they can focus better and that they are more relaxed and even more creative. The senses are heightened, it is true. When you eat something it tastes better and ones vision feels sharper. However these are all primary reactions and only last for 2-4 hours. While dagga is being metabolized in the body, secondary reactions take place which can last up to 3 months as the chemicals found in dagga are slowly worked out of the fatty parts of the body where they are stored. These metabolites have the opposite effect of the initial pleasant sensations that are present immediately after smoking and can be very dangerous.
No longer is the individual focused, but they have scattered thoughts and an attention deficit, the inability to remain on one train of thought and the inability to follow through on tasks. Anxiety and worry are also common, stress increases and this is when the user begins to rely on dagga to counteract these negative side effects. The ironic thing is that the very crutch they lean on is the cause of these undesirable emotions and side effects in the first place and the vicious circle simply continues, growing ever more severe in its highs and lows. If users were to stop using dagga, they would find that they would no longer experience many of these challenges at all
Evidence shows that over a longer period, dagga physically damages the brain, actually shrinking the hypocampus and amygdala by up to 12%! This results in memory loss, the failure to complete even simple tasks and a chronic lack of motivation. Dagga smokers suffer outbursts of rage and anger as their emotions are no longer controllable. The only way they are able to deal with these outbursts is by smoking another joint. The reprieve is short as within a few hours they will simply plummet back into a spiral of depression and mixed emotions causing them to smoke yet more dagga. This is addiction!
Dagga is a dangerous substance which threatens the youth of South Africa and the future of our nation. For the reasons mentioned above CYPSA remains opposed to the legalization of dagga on any grounds whatsoever.