Cannabis: Nature’s remedy?


After a lengthy battle against its criminalisation, dagga has finally stepped out of the shadows and into the mainstream.

Usually whispered about in hushed tones and smoked in dark corners, dagga is taking centre stage as lobbyists and academics scramble to find out more about the medicinal benefits of the plant.

While you can now grow your dagga in peace without being harassed by police, experts say that the only thing that makes dagga a medicine is the user, not the grower.

A better understanding of its benefits and risks, as well as the law, is necessary to make an informed decision.

If it is a medical remedy you are considering, Krithi Thaver, founder of Canna Culture and chair of the KZN branch of the Cannabis Development Council of SA, advises that the first step is a discussion with your doctor to establish if a marijuana-derived remedy is for you.

“Also, there are different varieties of marijuana and you must ensure you are using the correct one for your ailments as incorrect medicine can do more harm than good,” he said.

“We encourage everybody to start growing their own medicines to take care of their family’s health needs. Cannabis is able to treat and cure many conditions, so it’s imperative that everybody start growing their own.”

According to Thaver, with proper education on the type of seeds to plant, what method one is using to grow, and how to dry and use it properly as a treatment, it can be extremely effective.

He also stated that, since the ConCourt ruling, cannabis equipment suppliers around the country have been sold out, saying: “This is only going to get bigger and bigger.

“There are over 50 variants of oils to treat specific conditions. That’s the science behind cannabis oils. It’s important to select the right oil with a proper diet plan to treat a number of conditions effectively. They are also a variety of growing options one can consider.”

Krithi Thaver in the cannabis dispensary in Durban North.

So, what are the health benefits of cannabis? What ailments is it able to treat from the elderly to the young?

Thaver said cannabis creates homeostasis, which in a nutshell means it brings about balance in the body.

“Every mammal is born with an endocannabinoid system which takes cares of everything the body does, from the way you walk to the way you talk.

“By controlling this endocannabinoid sytem using cannabis, you can keep your body healthy without usage of toxic pharmaceutical drugs. From young to old, with no side effect, it’s the reason why it was such a well-guarded secret for a such a long time,” Thaver said.

A local man who has for a long time been advocating for the legalisation of dagga, who asked to remain unnamed, said he used it as a treatment option for his attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD).

“I really struggle to sit in one place for a long period of time. It helps me to focus. I teach yoga as well and it lends itself to those kinds of meditative practices of nature.”

The man said the seeds he consumes in the form of tea and edibles are from Lesotho and Swaziland.

“I make sure that I stay very close to my source. I don’t work with people who don’t grow their own cannabis. I need to know the conditions under which they were grown.”

Rastafarian Mpho Hadebe (35), from Willowfountain, agreed that dagga was good for medicinal use.

“We don’t only smoke dagga here — we also use it when we get sick. For instance, when you have chest pain, you boil dagga with water as if you are making tea out of it.”

“Then you drink that dagga tea and, in no time, you feel your chest opening up and become alive again,” he said.

Jah Hadebe said he was happy that the court had finally realised that there was nothing wrong with the plant.

“The only thing that should be criminalized is alcohol because that is what is killing the nation,” he said.

“Dagga is good – even if you smoke it, you don’t think about going out and hurting someone. All you are concerned with is what you are going to eat because it makes you hungry,” said Hadebe.

He said he did not grow dagga himself, but bought it whenever he wanted to smoke it.

“I am going to start my small garden soon. I used to grow dagga for private use, but I had to stop because I was scared of the police. Now there is nothing stopping me,” said

A recent report by the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine said there was evidence that cannabis or cannabinoids, which are found in the marijuana plant, could be an effective treatment for chronic pain.

This is by far the most common reason people request medical marijuana, the report reads.

Dr Asafika Mbangata, who works at the Community-Oriented Substance Use Program, said cannabis preparations were obtained from the hemp plant cannabis sativa.

“Cannabis sativa contains more than 400 chemicals, of which about 60 are psychoactive cannabinoids, one of a class of diverse chemical compounds that acts on cannabinoid receptors in cells that alter neurotransmitter release in the brain,” said Mbangata.

She said there were two types of dagga, 9-THC or 9-tetrahydrocannabinol, which is dagga that gives you a high. Its effects kick in within minutes after smoking or consumption and may last from five to 24 hours.

CBD, also known as cannabidiol dagga, that impacts the central nervous system without the high, is used for medicinal purposes.

Relief of chronic neuropathic pain, such as from multiple sclerosis, HIV-associated sensory neuropathy, cancer, chronic alcohol use and rheumatoid arthritis, is among the research-proven benefits of marijuana.

Mbangata said cannabis could also be used as an appetite stimulant.

What does the law say?

If you are getting high off your own supply, the law has almost-fully got your back. I say almost because, well, the law still needs to be properly written.

All we learned from the Constitutional Court ruling was that much of the new legislation must be decided by government.

There are still no exact amounts that have been set as the legal possession limit.

Blow by blow information on cannabis

What are Cannabis Seeds?

According to the Medical Cannabis Seed Bank website, cannabis is a dioecious plant which means that the male and female reproductive organs are found in separate individuals.

The most sought-after bud produced by cannabis is referred to as “sinsemilla”. This seedless flower is the result of growing female cannabis plants in an area without males, thus creating a high potency bud.

Feminised seeds?

Feminised seeds are created by causing a hermaphrodite condition in the female cannabis plant. To get yourself a hermi female, you can try one of the following methods:

• Spray the plant with a solution of colloidal silver.

• Spray the plant with gibberellic acid (very uncommon).

• Use the Rodelization method (whereby the female plant is stressed into producing both male and female flowers).

Feminised seeds will produce plants that are almost identical to the self-pollinated female parent. This is because only one set of genes exists and so no males will be produced.

Auto-flowering seeds?

When your growing cannabis plant begins to receive 12 hours (or less) of light a day, it will start to flower.

Sativa and Indica plants will flower based on the photoperiod and regardless of age or height. However, Cannabis ruderalis will begin flowering once the plant reaches a certain age and does not depend on a change of light. This low-THC species has opened up new doors for cannabis breeders. By crossing the ruderalis plant with more potent varieties we get auto-flowering strains.

These strains produce Sativa, Indica, or hybrid cannabis that will start producing bud as soon as they reach maturity. These auto-flowering strains are especially sought after in northern climates where summers are short and cold.

Cannabis seeds vs cannabis clones

A clone is a simple cutting taken from a plant that is placed into a growth medium to promote root growth. Once the cutting has rooted, it can be grown into a mature plant that will be genetically identical to the plant it was cut from.

On the other hand, seeds carry the genetic make-up of both its parent plants. These traits can be expressed in a variety of ways. Some plants characteristics will come from the mother and some from the father; others can show traits from both.

How much does cannabis oil cost?

Prices differ depending on where you get it.

On average, the price paid for cannabis oil in South Africa ranges from R450 per gram up to R1 000+ per gram. A gram might not sound like much but, in most cases, if the oil is a good product, a gram will last you much longer than you think.

With one gram of cannabis oil you can easily medicate 12 to 24 brownies.

Buying cannabis seeds

When it comes to buying cannabis seeds, things are different all over the world. In the U.K. there is a loophole in the law that allows you to purchase seeds as a “novelty” item. Here in SA, there are local online distributors that you can purchase from.

When you order seeds online, always be sure to use reputable sources. On average, the price paid for cannabis seeds in South Africa ranges from R900 for five seeds to R1800 for 10 seeds.

Recreational and medicinal use

Medicinal use is strictly in relation to tending or alleviating an ailment or disease. This can refer to many forms of consumption and use, from external and internal oils, to consuming cannabis based edibles, droplets and teas.

Recreational use is purely for the effect of tetrahydrocannabinol, or THC, which provides the user with a “high” feeling similar to that of consuming alcohol.

Medical cannabis isn’t for everyone

According to Gad Avnon, founder and pro­gramme di­rec­tor of Har­mony Re­treat, much of the damage associated with dagga use is done in the psychological aspect of personal developments.

“The users will not be motivated, and their cognitive capacity will be drastically impaired. Schoolwork will be of poor quality, which in turn will affect their future. In more severe cases a psychotic condition will occur, which could easily generate a mental health problem, or increase its intensity,” he said.

Avnon said addiction is a chronic brain and mental disorder.

“Those who become addicts will suffer from this disorder for life. It will take a very long time to become capable of managing the effect, but it is incurable.”

According to Avnon, in his experience, most people started smoking dagga in their early teen years, but people between the ages of 18 and 35 years old show the most prevalent cases.

He goes on to state that the decriminalisation of dagga will create the possibility of increased abuse among teenagers, because the fear factor is no longer relevant.

“Educators at school will have a difficult time trying to establish order and discipline. As cannabis is considered the gateway to harsher drugs, it will have a greater ripple effect as more and more people will abuse cannabis,” he added.

In 2016, the SA Community Epidemiology Network on Drug Use report concluded that cannabis was the most common primary substance of abuse for people younger than 20 present at treatment facilities countrywide, except for Free State, Northern Cape and North West.

Shaun Shelly, a drug policy researcher at the University of Pretoria, also warned that medicinal cannabis would not benefit everyone, saying: “We’ve kind of swung the pendulum (so) everybody thinks that cannabis use for everybody is perfectly safe and is going to have no problems – and that’s not true,” he said.

“For some people who have got propensity to psychotic disorders, using THC (the psychoactive component of marijuana) cannabis is not good.

“We need to realize that cannabis can be useful to some people and poison to others,” said Shelly.

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