Pol­icy re­forms on drugs needed

The Star Early Edition - - LETTERS - Calvin Goven­der

WHILE re­turn­ing books at our lo­cal Pi­eter­mar­itzburg North­dale li­brary dur­ing the July hol­i­days, I was in­vited by the li­brary man­ager (and her al­ways most gra­cious staff) to par­tic­i­pate in a well-in­ten­tioned anti-drug pro­gramme pre­sented by mem­bers of the lo­cal anti-drug task force.

The pre­sen­ter en­cour­aged ques­tions while show­ing ex­hibits of co­caine, Man­drax and ec­stasy tablets and also com­mended a young child for re­triev­ing a case of stolen cell­phones.

When the pre­sen­ter dis­played cannabis (dagga), an ea­ger 10-year-old in­stinc­tively asked whether it was true that cannabis cured can­cer. The pre­sen­ter re­sponded by say­ing that cannabis was good for med­i­cal pur­poses, but stressed that a child had ac­tu­ally died of an over­dose on Valen­tine’s Day this year.

This kind of mis­in­for­ma­tion (although well-in­ten­tioned) causes more harm than good, and a bet­ter ap­proach is to ex­plain the harm in­her­ent in smok­ing cannabis (for youth), as op­posed to con­sum­ing it as a bev­er­age (juice/tea) or food, where re­search shows no ev­i­dence of im­paired cog­ni­tive func­tion in young adults.

Mis­in­form­ing the youth cre­ates dis­trust and some may even­tu­ally ex­per­i­ment to de­ter­mine the truth for them­selves.

Over two decades ago, Judge Fran­cis L Young, of the US Drug En­force­ment Agency (DEA), ruled that cannabis in its nat­u­ral form is one of the safest ther­a­peu­ti­cally ac­tive sub­stances known to man.

He went on to con­demn its pro­hi­bi­tion as “un­rea­son­able, ar­bi­trary and capri­cious”, and he or­dered the DEA to re­cat­e­gorise cannabis so it could be avail­able on pre­scrip­tion.

With this judg­ment, Young opened one of the most bizarre and in­de­fen­si­ble chap­ters in the war on drugs, and one that would clearly demon­strate that the cannabis op­po­si­tion are de­ter­mined that the herb re­main il­le­gal, no mat­ter how ab­surd their case be­comes.

So en­trenched is the drug pro­hi­bi­tion regime, that drug ar­rests are linked to the po­lice of­fi­cers and state pros­e­cu­tors’ an­nual per­for­mance in­creases, based on their num­ber of drug ar­rests and con­vic­tions re­spec­tively. And, sadly, it is these very poli­cies that lead to vi­o­lent crime and wasted re­sources, as KZN vi­o­lence mon­i­tor Mary de Haas has at­tested to.

Such pol­icy re­forms (sex work­ers and cannabis reg­u­la­tion) place no ex­tra fis­cal bur­den on state cof­fers and have been suc­cess­ful in re­duc­ing vi­o­lent crime (mur­ders, rapes, hi­jack­ing and rob­beries) in many pro­gres­sive democ­ra­cies: Spain, Ger­many, Nether­lands, Italy, Canada and more than half the states in the US.

Pol­icy re­forms against vic­tim­less crim­i­nals will help shift South Africa from a Thirdto a First-World econ­omy and bridge the di­vide be­tween rich and poor, where some have far too much, while oth­ers have far too lit­tle.

Per­haps our cur­rent poli­cies are part of the rea­son why stu­dents protest about a colonised ed­u­ca­tion cur­ricu­lum, which churns out stu­dents for a labour-based econ­omy.

No more mis­in­for­ma­tion please, or else our next gen­er­a­tion of stu­dents will con­tin­u­ally protest.

Youth need the truth about dan­gers/ben­e­fits of dagga

Pi­eter­mar­itzburg

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