Le­gal­is­ing dagga will harm our youth

The Star Early Edition - - LETTERS - In­grid En­gel­brecht

FTER break, I can­not teach the learn­ers any­thing, they are all on a high, us­ing dagga,” stated a dis­grun­tled prin­ci­pal.

Sur­veys done at 2 534 schools across South Africa point to the fact that drug abuse is a key rea­son be­hind the high fail­ure rates of stu­dents and that dagga ranks as the third big­gest prob­lem af­ter gen­eral drug ad­dic­tion and teenage preg­nancy.

The 2017 UN Of­fice on Drugs and Crime re­port states: “The im­ple­men­ta­tion of medic­i­nal use and recre­ational le­gal­i­sa­tion is caus­ing this wide­spread per­cep­tion that dagga is not harm­ful.”

Ex­ten­sive po­lit­i­cal, so­ci­etal and reg­u­la­tory de­bates are rag­ing on the le­gal­i­sa­tion of dagga (cannabis sativa) in South Africa.

The trial, which has com­menced in the High Court in Pre­to­ria, is a mat­ter be­tween the first and sec­ond plain­tiffs Ju­lian Christo­pher Sto­bbs and Kath­leen Myr­tle Clarke (pre­vi­ously ar­rested for the pos­ses­sion of 1.87kg of dagga worth about R500 000) and the third plain­tiff, Clif­ford Alan Neal Thorp and the seven state de­fen­dants and Doc­tors for Life In­ter­na­tional as an eighth de­fen­dant.

The plain­tiffs hold that the leg­isla­tive pro­hi­bi­tion against the pos­ses­sion and use of cannabis by adults is in­con­sis­tent with the con­sti­tu­tion and there­fore in­valid.

They fur­ther call for the re­moval of cannabis from the list of sub­stances listed in Part III of the Sched­ule 2 of the Drugs and Drug Traf­fick­ing Act, 1992; that it be re­moved from the list of sub­stances in Sched­ule 7 of the Medicines and Re­lated Sub­stances Act, 1965, and that all ref­er­ences to dagga in sec­tion 21 of the Drugs and Drug Traf­fick­ing Act, 1992, be ex­punged.

The long-term im­pact of dagga on our so­ci­ety must be given due at­ten­tion. The World Drug Re­port high­lights that more younger peo­ple are seek­ing treat­ment for dagga re­lated dis­or­ders and that in Africa it is the main drug for which treat­ment is sought.

Ac­cord­ing to the Bri­tish Jour­nal of Phar­ma­col­ogy when ex­po­sure to cannabis oc­curs dur­ing crit­i­cal pe­ri­ods of brain de­vel­op­ment, there is an in­creased threat of cog­ni­tive deficits, mem­ory loss and a drop in IQ.

This is alarm­ing for the South African so­ci­ety, where we are plagued by the high­est un­em­ploy­ment rates since 2002, with 38.6% of our youth be­ing with­out work. The av­er­age high-school drop-out rate is 44.6%.

Ac­cord­ing to re­search from The Con­cerned Young Peo­ple of South Africa (Cypsa), we could there­fore ar­gue that as dagga stays in the body for more than 21 days, even the smok­ing of dagga or in­gest­ing it as an ed­i­ble af­ter school or over week­ends, are re­tard­ing school chil­dren’s aca­demic and sport achieve­ments, and cre­ates an un­safe en­vi­ron­ment for the child. The right of the child to a safe en­vi­ron­ment, and the right to learn is there­fore in­fringed.

The scourge of dagga on our young peo­ple is un­de­ni­able, how much more so when cannabis has been le­galised? Even if reg­u­lated, it will be more ac­ces­si­ble and eas­ily pro­cured.

Cypsa take the pro­tec­tion of the youth as a fun­da­men­tal re­spon­si­bil­ity and have started an in­ter­view process with the prin­ci­pals of schools to gauge the im­pact of drug abuse on learn­ers, and in par­tic­u­lar, the ef­fects of cannabis.

Prin­ci­pal C said mak­ing dagga le­gal, even for adult con­sump­tion only, would “mean our fu­ture is doomed and we have con­trib­uted to that.”

An­other over­whelmed prin­ci­pal noted that dagga is not only detri­men­tal to phys­i­cal health of users, but its ef­fects are far reach­ing in de­mor­al­is­ing teach­ers.

“These days we see those smok­ing it (dagga) pro­ceed­ing to Nyaope us­age and as we can see our kids are over­do­ing it and there is no life as such… in our schools we think of re­sign­ing and tak­ing early re­tire­ment to re­frain from these sub­stance abusers in our school. It is no longer safe for us as teach­ers, be­cause learn­ers are smok­ing and not do­ing any­thing at school.”

Sec­re­tary, The Con­cerned Young Peo­ple of South Africa (Cypsa).

UN­SAFE EN­VI­RON­MENT: Pupils smok­ing dagga dur­ing school hours at the Emjin­dini Se­condary School in Bar­ber­ton, Mpumalanga.

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