Dagga has real medical benefits - expert

2013-01-14 11:21
Protesters smoke marijuana during a demonstration against new government legislation calling for the creation of a 'weed pass' and the stopping of the substance's sale to foreigners, in Amsterdam. (AFP)

Protesters smoke marijuana during a demonstration against new government legislation calling for the creation of a 'weed pass' and the stopping of the substance's sale to foreigners, in Amsterdam. (AFP)

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Cape Town - Dagga has a real medical benefit and several organisations have indicated their support for research into the treatment applications for the drug.

"There is a mountain of research demonstrating the medical and therapeutic benefits of marijuana in the treatment of a variety of medical conditions and associated symptoms," Mason Tvert, director of communications for the Marijuana Policy Project in Denver, Colorado told News24.

Several organisations, including the American Academy of HIV Medicine, American Civil Liberties Union and HIV Medicine Association of the Infectious Diseases Society of America have expressed support for medicinal use of dagga or marijuana as it is known in the US.

Washington State and Colorado legalised personal marijuana use in December, though possession in still illegal under US federal law.

Anti-dagga lobbyists argue that allowing medicinal use of the drug will weaken drug enforcement laws and make it harder to prosecute dealers.

Deaths

As far back as 1988, US Administrative Law Judge Francis Young indicated in a marijuana rescheduling petition that the drug was not as dangerous for adults as some argue.

"In strict medical terms marijuana is far safer than many foods we commonly consume. For example, eating ten raw potatoes can result in a toxic response. By comparison, it is physically impossible to eat enough marijuana to induce death," Young said.

He went on to say that despite millions of people consuming dagga without medical supervision, there has not been a single recorded death attributed to the drug, whereas aspirin has been linked to hundreds of deaths every year.

According to the US Centres for Disease Control and Prevention, 36 450 deaths were attributed to prescription drugs in 2008, a rate of 11.9 per 100 000 of population in the US.

Tvert, who co-authored Marijuana Is Safer: So why are we driving people to drink?, said that dagga has been shown to have benefits in the treatment of a range of diseases, including cancer.

"It has been found to provide relief from nausea and appetite loss, such as that experienced by cancer patients undergoing chemotherapy. In individuals with glaucoma, it reduces intraocular pressure, alleviating pain and reducing damage to the eye. It has been found to be effective at reducing muscle spasms associated with multiple sclerosis."

A South African expert agreed with this view in broad terms, but cautioned that "unfiltered" dagga may cause harm.

"I believe we are past saying 'if' there are some medicinal benefits for marijuana. Yes, that would be the ideal to find other delivery mechanisms. But obviously these come with extra costs which need to be outweighed against the harms from smoking unfiltered (cheaper) marijuana," Professor Charles Parry, director of the Medical Research Council's Alcohol & Drug Abuse Research Unit told News24.


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