Policy reforms on drugs needed
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