US drug policy expert recommends legalisation of dagga in South Africa

Nicotine is probably the most addictive recreational drug around. Just ask anyone who has ever tried to quit. According to the World Health Organisation (WHO), tobacco is the single greatest cause of preventable death globally. The United States Center for Disease Control and Prevention describes tobacco as “the single most important preventable risk to human health and the most important cause of premature death worldwide”.

Yet, tobacco is legal.

Alcohol is not only unhealthy and addictive; it’s also tearing at the fabric of our society. According to the Automobile Association of South Africa (AA), the majority of all fatal accidents are caused by drunk drivers, while the bulk of pedestrians and people who die in motor vehicle accidents were under the influence of alcohol. A South African multi-centre study demonstrated that 78.9 percent of all patients at trauma units with violent injuries tested positive for alcohol. Of all homicides, more than 50 percent were alcohol-related. In South Africa, as elsewhere, when people get drunk, death and destruction all too often reigns.

Yet, alcohol is legal.

The glaring absurdity of a ban on marijuana while the more harmful alcohol and tobacco are tolerated, as well as a host of other very strong policy arguments, has led many to clamour for legalisation.

"The benefits of legalisaton exceed the disadvantages"

“The benefits of legalisation exceed the disadvantages,” says Ethan Nadelmann, executive director of San Francisco’s Pro Legalisation Drug Policy Alliance. “We know that marijuana is available to anybody who wants it.”

The results of three surveys in the US over the last ten years reveal that young people said it was easier to buy marijuana than it was to buy alcohol.

“So this notion that somehow we’re protecting young people by keeping marijuana illegal for adults is a joke really,” says Nadelmann.

He says the question that South Africans have to ask is, “Do the costs of keeping marijuana illegal - throwing non-criminals in jail, eschewing enormous amounts of tax revenue, keeping it a black market industry powered by organised and unorganised criminals, no quality control, revenue collected by criminals rather than law-abiding entrepreneurs, etc. - outweigh the benefits?

There is money to be made (and saved)

“Should you not rather legalise and regulate more or less like you do with alcohol? There are massive advantages in terms of taxation, regulation, undercutting the black market, putting fewer people in prison and reducing low level police corruption.

“The same arguments that are persuading people in my country will ultimately persuade people in your country as well.”

He adds that while legalisation might increase use “somewhat”, this will not be the case amongst young people.

“Young people already have such easy access to it. I think the principal increase you’ll see will be among older people. It will be people in their 50s, 60s, 70s and 80s. It will be people who find that having a little marijuana is better than taking a sleeping pill at the end of the night, or who find they prefer it to having that glass of alcohol, or that it helps with their diabetes or their arthritis. It’ll be the type of marijuana use that is somewhat recreational, somewhat medical, and lies in that in-between area.

“Quite frankly the risks of an increase in elderly people using marijuana compared to the potential benefits make it a non-issue,” says Nadelmann.

Less crime (and more funding for schools and the cops) in Colorado

He mentions the wildly successful example of Colorado, which in 2012 completely legalised the recreational use of marijuana.

“The sky did not fall. Those who used to buy marijuana on the black market are now buying it legally and paying taxes. Colorado is earning a fortune in tax revenue; in years to come it’ll amount to hundreds of millions of dollars. The funds from marijuana taxation are building schools and funding police departments. There’s not much harm, but a lot of good and less crime.”

Israel is another model that South Africa can look to, says Nadelmann.

“Their Health Ministry runs the medical marijuana industry and they currently have about 15,000 patients. It’s all very well done. There are so many models for South Africa to look at.”

Legal dagga coming to a country near you

Dagga was legal almost everywhere before widespread prohibition took hold in the late 1930s. The tide, however, is turning rapidly, with many countries now mulling legalisation.

In 2013, following in the footsteps of the US states of Colorado and Washington, Uruguay became the first country in the world to legalise the sale, cultivation and distribution of marijuana.

Other countries that recently legalised the medicinal use of marijuana include Canada, the Czech Republic, Israel and Chile with numerous others, including South Africa, debating the issue.

Listen to this Soundcloud clip for more detail.

The War on Drugs is doing nothing good and causing massive harm - Ethan Nadelmann

In this bold talk on Ted.com, drug policy reformist Ethan Nadelmann makes an impassioned plea to end the "backward, heartless, disastrous" movement to stamp out the drug trade. He gives two big reasons we should focus on intelligent regulation instead.


This article first appeared on 702 : US drug policy expert recommends legalisation of dagga in South Africa


Recommended

by NEWSROOM AI

CapeTalk welcomes all comments that are constructive, contribute to discussions in a meaningful manner and take stories forward.

However, we will NOT condone the following:

  • Racism (including offensive comments based on ethnicity and nationality)
  • Sexism
  • Homophobia
  • Religious intolerance
  • Cyber bullying
  • Hate speech
  • Derogatory language
  • Comments inciting violence.

We ask that your comments remain relevant to the articles they appear on and do not include general banter or conversation as this dilutes the effectiveness of the comments section.

We strive to make the CapeTalk community a safe and welcoming space for all.

CapeTalk reserves the right to: 1) remove any comments that do not follow the above guidelines; and, 2) ban users who repeatedly infringe the rules.

Should you find any comments upsetting or offensive you can also flag them and we will assess it against our guidelines.

CapeTalk is constantly reviewing its comments policy in order to create an environment conducive to constructive conversations.

Read More
[LISTEN] 'Our fight with Sars concerns R 217 million' - Christo Wiese

[LISTEN] 'Our fight with Sars concerns R 217 million' - Christo Wiese

The South African billionaire has responded to reports placing him at the centre of an alleged tax evasion scheme.

'Ramaphosa is presenting an image of him as Madiba’s anointed successor'

'Ramaphosa is presenting an image of him as Madiba’s anointed successor'

President Ramaphosa is invoking his inner Mandela for political ends, says Political Economy Analyst Daniel Silke.

So long, Beira! And thanks for all the seafood!

So long, Beira! And thanks for all the seafood!

Bruce Whitfield interviews Lee Kasumba who is wrapping up her fact-finding mission in Mozambique’s central port city of Beira.

How to win elections and influence people

How to win elections and influence people

You could say elections are being disrupted.

Pay back the billions you dodged in taxes, Christo Wiese! – Sars

Pay back the billions you dodged in taxes, Christo Wiese! – Sars

He's been implicated in an elaborate tax-dodging scheme, says amaBhungane’s Craig McKune.

Does dagga make you “benign” or “very, very aggressive”?

Does dagga make you “benign” or “very, very aggressive”?

Stephen Grootes interviews two experts with wildly divergent opinions…

Popular articles
Parents no longer have to travel with children's birth certificates

Parents no longer have to travel with children's birth certificates

The new Home Affairs upgrades to the system include printing parents details at the back of the child's passport.

Tell me what you want: Study reveals most common sexual fantasies

Tell me what you want: Study reveals most common sexual fantasies

What are your sexual fantasies? Disclosure can bring sexual freedom, but it can also have downsides. A study lists the top trends.

More arrests are imminent in connection with the cash-in-transit heists - Hawks

More arrests are imminent in connection with the cash-in-transit heists - Hawks

Seven suspects were arrested in Limpopo in less than 24 hours after a cash-in-transit vehicle was blown up in the province.

Madiba’s private secretary Zelda la Grange opens up about money (hers and his)

Madiba’s private secretary Zelda la Grange opens up about money (hers and his)

Bruce Whitfield interviews La Grange about her and Madiba's attitude to money (hopes and fears, successes and failures, etc.)

The story of amaBhungane (and how it’s digging up dung on the Guptas & friends)

The story of amaBhungane (and how it’s digging up dung on the Guptas & friends)

The Money Show’s Bruce Whitfield interviews amaBhungane Centre for Investigative Journalism Investigative Journalist Craig McKune.

Meet Elmar Conradie, CEO of low-cost FlySafair (world’s most on-time airline)

Meet Elmar Conradie, CEO of low-cost FlySafair (world’s most on-time airline)

The Money Show’s Bruce Whitfield interviews Conradie for his “ShapeShifter” feature.

Criminals targeting homes with aluminium windows, warns neighborhood watch

Criminals targeting homes with aluminium windows, warns neighborhood watch

The Panorama, Welgelegen and Plattekloof Neighbourhood Watch has identified a new house break-in trend.