December 18, 2012

Dagga: Cape Town Doctor Mistakes Symptoms for Cause

As we wind down to the end of the year there has been a flurry of dagga news in SA’s mainstream media and it’s no surprise that it’s the usual negative vibes.

One of the highlights has been the recent opinion piece prominently featured in the Cape Times, penned by one Dr EV Rapiti of Mitchells Plain and titled “Futures go up in smoke with dagga”. It was the usual rhetoric we have come to expect from those who find comfort in cannabis being prohibited, which is clear from his opening paragraph; “Arguments used by lobbyists in favour of legalising cannabis are based on ignorance and need to be challenged”.

To summarise the views Dr Rapiti has regarding dagga use:
  • It is 20 times more carcinogenic than cigarettes
  • It is no safer than cigarettes because it is mixed with tobacco
  • THC has been shown to increase heart attacks
  • It exacerbates schizophrenia
  • It could cause psychosis
  • Users younger than 15 have a 5 times higher risk of becoming depressed and anxious
  • It lowers IQ
  • Has a negative effect on driving, flying or practising medicine
  • Doubles the chance of having a road accident
  • Mixing with mandrax or alcohol could lead to manic violence

What follows is more dagga knocking of issues the doctor has encountered such as suicide, murder and post-traumatic stress. All of which he appears to ambiguously blame on dagga use while simultaneously attributing to polidrug use (using more than one drug at a time).

The good doctor then goes on to say “If we make the mistake of legalising dagga, we will pay an immense price in terms of our economy and education because of poor work and school performance”. This is where we see the doctor go from half truths to completely unfounded claims.

So let’s take a closer look at the doctor’s claims.

Content does not equal effect as carcinogens are only relevant if they have an effect on users. The longest and most comprehensive study to date looking into the relationship between dagga and lung health showed no negative effects for users. Attributing the effects of other drug use (legal or illegal) to cannabis or the mixing thereof is no different from blaming Coca-Cola for the ill effects of abusing brandy or rum. It’ quite absurd and dangerously misleading, as is blaming an increased heart rate exclusively for heart attacks. Heaven forbid we exercise, dance, work or have sex.

The matter of driving or performing any other task which may have an adverse effect under the influence of dagga is quite contentious. We always advocate responsible cannabis use for all adults, in all circumstances, driving included. However, crash-culpability, on-road performance and driving simulator studies have found that dagga has a measurable yet relatively mild effect on psychomotor skills, yet it does not appear to play a significant role in vehicle crashes, particularly when compared to alcohol. In fact, a new study has found that American states who have legalized cannabis have seen a decline in fatal car accidents.

While mental illness claims are applicable to those with an existing or underlying mental condition, and to the dangers of youth use, a very similar relationship to that of sugar and diabetes, Dr Rapiti has conveniently omitted this. He also chose ignore that the IQ study he referred to showed “no IQ defecits among chronic adult-onset cannabis users”, and that the researchers conclude that their “findings are suggestive of a neurotoxic effect of cannabis on the adolescent brain and highlight the importance of prevention and policy efforts targeting adolescents”. There is no age-limit in the black market, something our policy of criminalization does not address at all.

No one is standing on their soapbox calling for free weed to be dished out at school gates. Tobacco and alcohol have taught us an immense amount about what and what not to do. The ethical conundrums have long been dealt with, as have the exaggerated claims of dagga’s negative impact on users.

We currently have the firmest grasp ever on this much studied plant. Even at the worst case prognosis, the effects of dagga on individuals and society aren’t even in the same league as the ill effects of dagga prohibition; something which is already causing the unsubstantiated burdens the prohibitionists forecast in a legal dagga economy.

Dr Rapiti has mistakenly interpreted the “Arguments used by lobbyists in favour of legalising cannabis”. This is not and has never been about promoting dagga use, as that is what drug dealers do. This is about no longer criminalizing responsible adult dagga users and creating a legal industry in which employment can be created, existing law enforcement tax Rands and new tax Rands redirected to education and other social development programmes, including drug addiction treatment, and no longer watching “Futures go up in smoke with dagga” due to criminal records fucking up peoples’ lives good and proper.

His closing statement however does stumble into the territory of common sense: “I suggest is that we stop relying on the law to combat use of illegal drugs and turn to education campaigns to combat the spiral of drug addiction”.

We can only hope that the good doctor leads by example and leaves the old 90’s testament rhetoric in the past. To teach people about something, you need to first understand it in full.

Let’s educate with more than half truths and convenient omissions.

  • chil_e_g

    It is 20 times more carcinogenic than cigarettes
    weird! cigarettes make me cough

    It is no safer than cigarettes because it is mixed with tobacco
    Great! I don’t use mix

    THC has been shown to increase heart attacks
    22 years, I will let you know when it happens

    It exacerbates schizophrenia
    Then don’t use it

    It could cause psychosis
    nice thumbsuck

    Users younger than 15 have a 5 times higher risk of becoming depressed and anxious
    we don’t want kids smoking weed, just like we don’t want them drinking

    It lowers IQ
    I run my own successful web development company, been smoking 22 years

    Has a negative effect on driving, flying or practising medicine
    Then don’t smoke while flying a plane or doing a heart transplant, have one later.

    Doubles the chance of having a road accident

    Mixing with mandrax or alcohol could lead to manic violence
    Its the mandrax dude, if you mix it with alcohol, you will be sleeping soon. Maniac Violence!!! ha ha ha ha ha ha, who is this guy???

  • Bert

    Thanks Buzz, once again a great article. Way more and better arguments than the Dr

  • There were two other responses to the Doctor’s letter published in the Cape Times a few days after the original one was published. One from a woman agreeing that dagga causes death and destruction, another from The Dagga Couple.

    These letters are great, even the misinformed ones in a way, as they really do spark the debate and then the real truth comes out. Lets hope the Cape Times will have the balls to publish an article on the other side of the dagga debate one of these days.

    Great job on your response buzz!

  • Dubbed Marley

    Sticky Scissors said:
    Lets hope the Cape Times will have the balls to publish an article on the other side of the dagga debate one of these days.

    Great job on your response buzz!

    Couldnt agree more !!

  • Princess Puff

    You would think think a medical doctor would at least research a little bit before just sprouting half truths!

    Good job Buzz!

  • This reminds me of a quotation from Heretics of Dune by the irreplaceable Mr Frank Herbert. It goes thusly:

    There was a man who sat each day looking out through a narrow vertical opening where a single board had been removed from a tall wooden fence. Each day a wild ass of the desert passed outside the fence and across the narrow opening—first the nose, then the head, the forelegs, the long brown back, the hindlegs, and lastly the tail. One day, the man leaped to his feet with the light of discovery in his eyes and he shouted for all who could hear him: “It is obvious! The nose causes the tail!”
    -Stories of the Hidden Wisdom,
    from the Oral History of Rakis

  • This doctor sounds like a tool. It seems he is trying to find anyway bad thing (without doing his research) and pin it on dagga. Dagga causes mud slides…

  • Joe Fish

    Dr EV “Gatsby & Chips” Rapiti is one of those folks PT Barnum said is “born every minute”.

  • Preiss

    I just phoned this guy. Dr EV Rapiti 082 581 1846 thats his number. He keeps on repeating himself like 20 times. every time i just start taking he sais the same thing over and over, so he is an retard. Thank you just wanted you to know.

  • icepick

    Frightening. How does someone qualified as a Dr get to talk such nonsense? Where are the references! Even his website lacks anything obtainable via external sources (, its just a page to sell himself as some all round Dr that can perform heart surgery in an elevator for 20 Manderla!
    What crap. Someone should strip this fool of his medical badge.

  • I like referring to doctors as mechanics, also very similar to lawyers. Although we respect them for dedication to learning, does not mean they are clever. Some of the most clever people I know, can be absolutely thick as planks when it comes to simple things. I prefer going to herbal healers for help, they seem alot more open.

  • Teddy20129

    Doctors are ill educated on cannabis I was just at one today and when I brought it up she acted like I’m doing crack or coke, saying its a stepping stone and blah blah bullshit then I told her well I’ve been smoking for 4 years and I’m not running out the door to score anything I can even choose to stop smoking weed for weeks, so she started getting more interested on the subject yet her view at the end of the session was that it’s still illegal and the fact of me spending time for possession or whatever.