The year of hope for dope
2012 has been an immense year for cannabis. It was discussed more than ever. It made headlines more than ever. Its prohibition cost us more than ever.
The USA saw an 18th State allow for the medical use of cannabis and the introduction of the first 2 States permitting legal recreational use for adults. British politicians faced another government commission report recommending that cannabis be reclassified as a legal drug, which they again ignored. An increasing number of South American countries moved towards legalization while many European countries weren’t far behind in their efforts to see an end to the costly and counterproductive prohibition. Even the Netherlands is bucking the recent attempts to restrict cannabis use to Dutch citizens only.
South Africa’s cannabis scene heated up with the best of them. The Dagga Couple maintained their quest to the Constitutional Court, a government commissioned report concluded that cannabis should be legal and we witnessed the tragedy of Debbie Calitz falling on her sword in an effort to protect her loved ones from South Africa’s archaic cannabis laws. We’ve even seen the introduction of South Africa’s first legal hemp crop. 2013 is most certainly going to be an interesting year for the cannabis movement.
Obstacles faced by activists and regular citizens alike regarding the defeat of cannabis prohibition have been very similar to that of the obstacles faced during the overthrow of the USA’s alcohol prohibition laws, a fundamental difference however being the pace of the end of alcohol prohibition vs the pace of the end of cannabis prohibition. One lasted for a few years while the other has lasted a century, but how long will our elected leaders maintain their weakening grasp on the existing cannabis laws? How long till cannabis users are no longer considered second class citizens?
The efforts of certain local religious groups and respected professionals to uphold prohibition are being met by the very people they are attempting to suppress. Social media and the internet are providing the ability to now scale the ivory towers in which these prohibitionists reside so that we are able to have a direct discussion. No longer are our voices muffled by the condescending oppression of officials in high places. This ability to now tackle our critics head on has been a major catalyst in evolving the discussion.
Another catalyst that is accelerating the end of prohibition is that we have gone from a society of very few closet cannabis users to a society in which you are hard-pressed to find a friend or family member who has not at some point tried cannabis for themselves, learning first hand that it is not the villain weed so often demonized by officials and politicians. In the face of increased attempts by authorities to suppress cannabis use it is more prolific than ever, the local cannabis community has grown from a few people to a few million people who are tired of being branded losers and stoners for making a choice that presents far fewer risks than the current legal over the counter options.
The discussion has evolved, the numbers are in. Cannabis, though not completely harmless, is just about one of the safest substances you can consume. Sure… it’s an intoxicant and a miniscule amount of people may be mentally allergic to it, but the risk it poses is minor when compared to the legal substances we are fed constant images of on billboards and TV screens. Gateway theories and sensationalist claims have now also found their place in the book of fairytales. Fact is fast overtaking fiction.
We are approaching a time of cannabis profits being taken away from criminals, sales to children no longer being part of the cannabis market and adults being allowed to legally use cannabis. There are no disillusions that legal cannabis will see the complete end to the fallout of adolescent use or irresponsible use; these are realities we face as part of being human. There are however no doubts that we will be able to minimize the ill effects currently seen from cannabis use. Long standing examples set by countries such as Portugal, Switzerland and the Netherlands demonstrate how relaxed laws regarding cannabis have lead to lower use, lower social expense and decreased prison populations. All of this is even before we begin the discussion of what benefits would come from a legal cannabis industry.
The war against cannabis costs thousands of lives and billions of Rand each year, yet it has not shown a single positive result in its century long track record. Ever increasing demand continues to be met irrespective of attempts by authorities to guide our morals with assault rifles and prison bars.
Prohibition of cannabis is a cancer upon our society and it is no longer just cannabis users who see the sense in bringing it to an end. The price of prohibition is simply too big to ignore.
Is it not time to stop basing our laws regarding cannabis on something more than blind faith? Is it not time to strive towards making a positive tangible difference by having a constructive and legal cannabis industry in South Africa? Is it not time to disregard the paranoia of prohibitionists?
Is it not time to free the millions of people suppressed by an obviously flawed and failing law?
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