Cannabis would do less harm than alcohol - Prof Nutt

Pretoria – Alcohol does more harm than cannabis, an expert testified on Friday in bid to have dagga legalised in the high court.

“A society where cannabis replaced alcohol would be a nicer place to live and would have better health benefits and less health harms, and should be considered,” Professor David Nutt testified in the High Court in Pretoria.

He is a British psychiatrist and neuropsychopharmacologist - someone who studies how drugs affect the mind.

He was testifying for “dagga couple” Julian Stobbs and Myrtle Clarke, who are trying to have cannabis legalised for use, cultivation, and distribution.

Nutt said there were 16 “harms” a drug could do: nine to users, and seven to society.

The former include shorter lifespan, health damage, and loss of jobs and homes. Harms to society include crime, damage to communities, families, and the environment.

“In several expert groups evaluating the harms of alcohol and cannabis, it turns out there is a not a single harm out of the whole 16 that cannabis causes more of than alcohol. For the majority of harms, cannabis is significantly less harmful than alcohol,” said Nutt.

In chronic users, alcohol was two to three times more harmful than cannabis, causing brain damage, liver sclerosis, ulcers, and high blood pressure.

“We know from international data that you are four times more likely to have a road traffic accident if you are drunk than if you are stoned.

“Alcohol has more impact on domestic violence than all other drugs put together.”

In the UK, the leading cause of death among men under the age of 50 was alcohol, Nutt said.

He said the argument that cannabis caused schizophrenia or any psychosis was unfounded. While cannabis could mimic the symptoms, the increase in cannabis use in the United Kingdom had not resulted in a corresponding increase in schizophrenia or psychosis.

Whilst Nutt’s research was compiled using data in the UK, he said it could be extrapolated to South Africa as all humans had the same body and physiology.

On Monday, Nutt would continue his evidence-in-chief, before being cross-examined by the State.

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