The Cannabis plant, indigenous to Central-and South Asia, was historically recognised for its variable applications which could be non-exclusively grouped among fields of clothing, building material, sustenance and medicine. For millennia it was regarded as a resource to mankind rather than the wicked designation bestowed upon it through institutionalised deception during the 20th century.
In 1923 the South-African government, a pioneer in the prohibition campaign, suggested to the League of Nations Advisory Committee on Traffic in Opium and Dangerous Drugs that cannabis in its entirety as a plant was a habit forming drug which should be prohibited. International prohibition was already underway when the International Opium Convention in 1912 displayed desire for a scientific and statistical study to be completed to ascertain the nature of cannabis usage. The resulted war being waged behind this prohibition was degraded to an ideological platform of race politics which was baseless of any scientific fact or evidence. This trend was observed throughout the then conservative western world which was in its infant stages of shunting the legacy of slavery and segregation. The South-American, Asiatic and African populace, who were generally seen as regular consumers of cannabis, was the object of the prohibition war as opposed to the cannabis plant itself. The South-African government argued that the inauspicious productivity levels of the African labour force in the mining sector were as a direct consequence of cannabis usage. The prohibition crusade in the United States of America was conducted by the infamous Harry Anslinger who was appointed as the director of the Federal Bureau of Narcotics. The following quotes were from Anslinger and are evident of the racial manipulation the prohibition of cannabis was subjected to:
“There are 100,000 total marijuana smokers in the US, and most are Negroes, Hispanics, Filipinos, and entertainers. Their Satanic music, jazz, and swing, result from marijuana use. This marijuana causes white women to seek sexual relations with Negroes, entertainers, and any others.”
“…the primary reason to outlaw marijuana is its effect on the degenerate races.”
“Marijuana is an addictive drug which produces in its users insanity, criminality, and death.”
“Reefer makes darkies think they’re as good as white men.”
“Marihuana leads to pacifism and communist brainwashing”
“You smoke a joint and you’re likely to kill your brother.”
“Marijuana is the most violence-causing drug in the history of mankind.”
In the scientific context of perilousness to individuals, the dependency forming features of cannabis is proven to be lower than that of caffeine, alcohol, nicotine or the obvious hazardous cocaine and heroin. A small portion of heavy cannabis users develop a certain degree of dependency, although the physical addiction to cannabis has not been proven to exist. This supports the fact that a very small proportion of first time users will resort to regular use enforcing the argumentative position for recreational usage, challenging the conventional addiction perspective associated with heavier drugs, of which caffeine and alcohol is included, for measure to non-cannabis users.
A recent study, the biggest of its kind in history, conducted by the University of California in Los Angeles, surprisingly found that smoking cannabis does not cause lung cancer, irrespective of the volume and frequency of consumption. The reason behind this revelation was that the chemical compound found in cannabis, tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), could kill of aging cells which are responsible for becoming cancerous.
Schizophrenia was previously believed to be a condition potentially triggered in some cases by the use of cannabis, although evidence from various studies on this contradicts one another. Dissimilar to this theory, there are studies which have shown that cannabidiol (CBD), “a non-psychoactive constituent of the Cannabis sativa plant, can in fact be utilised as a treatment for schizophrenic symptoms.
The health benefits concomitant with cannabis has been well studied and documented in the last few decades, although it poses a threat to the sustainable profiteering of pharmaceutical corporations, therefore justifying the suppression of information pertaining to these facts by big business and governments alike. Marco Torres, a specialist writer and researcher in the fields of Public Health and Environmental Science has listed “The top 10 health benefits of marijuana”, which was well researched based on scientific principles. These benefits included, but are not exclusive of, proven cancer inhibition, the treatment of symptoms from Tourette’s syndrome, the treatment of seizures, migraines, Glaucoma, Multiple sclerosis, ADD and ADHD, IBS and Crohn’s, Alzheimer’s and the feminine condition of premenstrual syndrome. Various other studies have documented that there are many more pharmaceutical applications of cannabis, which are currently blatantly over looked and silenced.
Through the 20th century, an indoctrinated stigma was progressively allocated to cannabis, which steered the general populace to believe that cannabis was socially unacceptable and that there existed a string of negative social and health connotations to the plant. Since the 1970’s, studies were conducted on a large scale to establish the impact of cannabis through scientific principles and evidence. A series of myths, needless to say which were baseless of factual evidence, were exposed by Lynn Zimmer, Associate professor of Sociology at Queens College and John P. Morgan, Professor of Pharmacology at the City University Medical School in the paper “Exposing marijuana myths: a review of scientific evidence”. These myths ranged from social issues, addictive properties and statistical usage to the regularly sited health myths.
The current legislation on recreational substances in South-Africa allows for alcohol to be marketed and sold nationwide. The World Health Organisation argues that strong evidence in various countries has suggested that alcohol severely exacerbates the frequency and degree of domestic violence, household financial problems and psychological complications for children under these circumstances.
Opposed to this, cannabis is a mood relaxer which induces a decreased probability for these situations to develop, which makes cannabis legalisation a potential opportunity for our government to address continued social problems and domestic violence. The legalisation of cannabis could mean that the demand for alcohol, a major contributor to social problems, will decrease with the increased demand for safer and cheaper cannabis products. Government expenditure on cannabis prohibition will also decrease as an added benefit, due to the cost of prosecution and imprisonment of transgressors, as well as substituting valuable law enforcement time and resources currently being spent on cannabis prohibition, towards more serious crime.
As contained in the South-African constitution, the freedom to choose should be extended to allow citizens to recreationally and responsibly engage in the cannabis trade. The choice to abstain from cannabis consumption should never be compromised, as it remains an individual choice. South-Africa has strict laws against underage drinking, intoxicated driving and working under the influence, which regularly result in hefty fines, imprisonment and employment termination. These laws would naturally be extended to the responsible marketing and consumption of cannabis.
A massive range of potential cannabis products exist which will materially impact any country which chooses to entirely legalise the plant. The biggest potential contributor to the South-African economy would definitely be the prospect of hemp-biofuel. The benefits of hemp-fuel consists of its ability to produce 10 tonnes of hemp per acre during a four month period, it contains 10 times more ethanol than conventional maize products and hemp-fuel has a cleaner combustion and is also theoretically considered carbon neutral due to the photosynthesis taking place through the cultivation of the plant.
The tourism industry would also greatly benefit from legalisation as cannabis lovers from all over the world would descend upon South-Africa with its already renowned natural beauty, which would then simplify the traveller’s choice of destination. This would easily be stimulated by the establishment of cannabis festivals nationwide, along with regulated coffee shops as with the Dutch example in Europe.
Resistance from other industries ranging from clothing to textiles, plastics to paint and paper to pharmaceuticals might be a burden to overcome as vested interests in these industries will be difficult to transform. The pro-cannabis community has long held the suspicion that these industries merely supported prohibition to enforce the sustainable exploitation of communities through products which are more expensive, ineffective and in most cases much more detrimental to the environment. With the continued pressure on dwindling global resources, the introduction of cannabis into the market place will ensure the stimulus of economic activities, the development of employment opportunities, growth in tax revenue to government as well as the potential reduction in soaring inflation, through product substitution. A segmental approach could be taken in South-Africa to legalise the commercial production of cannabis in historically impoverished areas only, with marketing and sales available in all provinces. Large swathes of arable land are available for cannabis cultivation in many parts of South-Africa which could prove to be the poverty alleviation element our nation has long been waiting for.
The legalisation debate has recently become extremely important with various countries contemplating legalisation and Uruguay being the first country as a whole to pass a bill to legalise the trade entirely. South-Africa, being the prohibition pioneer under a colonial government, should once again be a pioneer and unite its nation towards prosperity by legalising cannabis completely. The upfront establishment of cannabis industries will prove to be a valuable competitive strategy in becoming a world leader in the cannabis trade, prior to the rest of the world catching on and diminishing this advantage. In other words, we need to legalise NOW!
Political persuasion might prove to be another stumble block, although civil pressure on government and political parties will be the only weapon in our arsenal towards economic freedom as a country, as well as freedom of choice for individuals. Political parties should understand that they should follow the will of the electorate and that an inevitable green future will be realised with or without them. South-Africa’s political arena already has pioneering visionaries in the form of Iqela Lenstango, Dagga Party of South-Africa. With continued pressure, the civil society can force other parties for follow suite, to ensure our green and sustainable future.
Every rational patriot to South-Africa must support legalisation NOW!
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