REHAB facilities and the Upper Highway community are concerned that the proposal to legalise marijuana (dagga) will have devastating effects and add to the escalating crime rate.Catherine Caples, a Cresthill Manor Addiction Clinic social worker has done research into the drug and states that according to the United Nations International Drug Control Programme, marijuana is classified as a psychoactive substance and when taken into a living organism, may modify its perception, mood, cognition, behaviour or motor function.“The National Drug Master Plan, 2013–2017, gives a clear understanding of substance abuse which includes the use of marijuana when it says, ‘Alcohol and drugs damage the health of users and are linked to rises in non-communicable diseases including HIV and Aids, cancer, heart disease and psychological disorders. Users are also exposed to violent crime, either as perpetrators or victims and are also at risk of long-term unemployment due to school dropout and foetal alcohol syndrome, conflicting with law and loss of employment.’“I have worked with numerous and various types of people presenting with various disorders, I do believe that marijuana is related to psychosis. The individuals who I have had the opportunity to meet and attempt to speak to have presented with hallucinations, visual and auditory, delusions of grandeur, paranoia along with illusions.“I think there will be less productivity in society if more individuals use marijuana along with higher levels of addiction developing.”Caples said this drug could also be seen as a gateway to other drugs. “I have worked with patients that have started the road of substance use mainly beginning with marijuana. Do all persons who use marijuana get addicted to other drugs – no, but other drugs are socially used in conjunction with marijuana - marijuana being their drug of choice.“People develop a tolerance to the ‘high’ given by marijuana and generally seek other drugs to achieve a higher level of euphoria.“The legalisation of this drug will be detrimental to society on so many levels and its development of a productive population.”Walter Petersen, the director of South African National Council on Alcoholism and Drug Dependence (Sanca) Durban, also shunned the legalisation of marijuana.“There are so many health risks and social ills linked to this drug and Sanca definitely is against it being legalised.“We believe there is not enough research done to promote the legalisation of it and we cannot compare our country to the first world as we have many other factors to consider,” he said.When looking at marijuana as a “gateway drug”, Petersen said Sanca believes that marijuana, in conjunction with nicotine, can encourage youngsters to experiment with other drugs too.“Drug users can also resort to criminal activity to support their habit. Legalisation of this drug will no doubt cause a negative rippling effect for the community.”The parent of a Botha’s Hill teenager said she hopes this drug is never legalised.“I grew up in a community where drug use was rife. There was crime, and violence. Men abused their wives and claimed to be ‘high’, I am terrified that the legalisation of this drug will lead our children down this destructive path as well.”Caples and Petersen encouraged parents to talk to their children about the destruction drugs can cause to one’s life.They also advised families that are affected by drug use to seek help.“Drug talk should become family talk. There are many clinics that offer assistance to families or addicts themselves. Seek help and end substance abuse,” said Petersen.For more information, contact Sanca on 086 147 2622 or Cresthill Manor Addiction Clinic on 031 765 2528.