The Star Early Edition

Legalising dagga will harm our youth

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

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