Prohibitionist Christian organisation, Doctors for Life, issued a press release last week in response to my quotes featured in a recent News24 article about cannabis legalization. Below is Doctors for Life’s press release, followed by my public response.
Dagga: Forget the Buzz, it’s the facts that count!
Press Release 16 August 2012
News 24 recently featured an article on the decriminalization of dagga (cannabis) by an activist who goes by the name of Buzz. Doctors for Life International is intrigued by the position taken this activist as the whole article seems to be based more on Buzz’ impressions than real facts.
Buzz claims that decriminalizing dagga will:
• not lead to a rise in it’s use
• will make it possible to control it’s sales
• make it less attractive
• take it out of the hands of organized crime
To justify his argument he quotes the Dutch government’s liberal policies of quite some time ago on Cannabis and its use.
The opinion negates numerous studies amongst which is the massive, “General Lifestyle Survey of the Office of National Statistics of the British Government 2009”. This study demonstrated for the umpteenth time, a much higher use of legal drugs compared to that of illicit drugs.
The Dutch government started changing their liberal policy on dagga in 2010 by closing down coffee shops (about 43 in Amsterdam alone), forbidding foreigners to go to coffee shops, closing down coffee shops a certain distance from schools etc. The Dutch minister of Health and Justice justified the new trend when he admitted that they had been unable to root out the criminal element in the dagga trade when he stated: “…This law will put an end to the nuisance of criminality associated with “coffee shops” and “drugs trafficking”.
The argument that legalizing dagga will lead to a glut of people growing it for profit, which Buzz rejects, is exactly one of the reasons why the city of Los Angeles in California decided earlier this year to close down all (approximately 900 of them) pharmacies that sold dagga.
The whole idea that we should legalize harmful social practices that we have failed to get rid of while illegal is absurd, to say the least. Throughout the ages virtually no human vices have been completely prevented by making them illegal. But that does not mean we are considering legalizing theft or fraud, or the abuse of women, or even murder for that matter.
One of the most condemning facts against the legalization of dagga is the relationship between schizophrenia and dagga use, which has become dominant in medical literature over the past few years. There is no such association with tobacco smoke and psychosis associated with alcohol abuse only develops after long periods of alcohol addiction.
Dope smokers have been found to inhale deeper than cigarette smokers and hold smoke in the lungs for longer before they exhale. Ammonia levels were 20 times higher in marijuana smoke than in tobacco smoke. Hydrogen cyanide, nitric oxide and certain aromatic amines occurred at levels 3-5 times higher in marijuana smoke. Cannabis smoke contains seven times more tar and carbon monoxide than cigarette smoke.
One is forced to conclude that Buzz’ view represents one of those extreme views that is not based on scientific data, but is rather one of the view points of a small subgroup of society using thumb sucked statistics that suit them.
Doctors for Life International, represents more than 1400 medical doctors and specialists, three-quarters of whom practice in South Africa. Since 1991 DFL has been actively promoting sound science in the medical profession and health care that is safe and efficient for all South Africans.
For more information visit: www.doctorsforlife.co.za
Thank you for joining the discussion regarding cannabis and its place in our society. I did not expect a religious organisation such as yours to judge others for also making an adult choice about their personal lifestyle, but let’s focus on the topic at hand. The one study you’ve cited has nothing to do with cannabis. That you would compare the legalisation of cannabis with legalising fraud, the abuse of woman or even murder is absurd, to say the least.
Please share with us one single scientific study concluding that cannabis use should be illegal, or how the potential harms of ingesting cannabis are anywhere near as damaging as a criminal record or imprisonment?
You comments regarding the USA and Netherlands conveniently omit that they are in no way removing the rights of these citizens to ingest cannabis. You’ve also omitted that Netherlands’ cannabis use is lower than the European average and much lower than that of the USA, which spends at least R75 billion per year on prohibition. Regarding the US, Federal promises of property seizures, tax evasion and prosecution of medical cannabis stores play a large part. A pro-cannabis policy voted in by the majority of the State is now being stomped on. I don’t blame the State for trying to protect its citizens from Federal persecution. Goodbye tax revenue. What about the 3 States putting legalization to the vote this November, with much public support, or Portugal’s decade of documented success with decriminalization?
You glide over legal alcohol and legal tobacco as if they don’t kill millions of people a year. The UN estimates there are as many as 224 million global cannabis users, yet we still wait in anticipation for stories of all the cannabis overdoses and victims. Responsible use is something that certainly needs to be discussed, especially with teenagers. Much the same as the sex talk. Let’s remove the stigma and the misconception that cannabis is a hard drug. People should not be fooled into thinking that heroin, tik, crack or even alcohol and tobacco are as forgiving as cannabis.
The relationship between schizophrenia and cannabis use has not made it from theory to fact. The theory is also inconsistent with the huge global upswing of cannabis use and the decades long 0% increase in schizophrenia rates. Peanut allergies are at the same percentage, yet we don’t condemn this “harmful social practice”. There are even studies suggesting that cannabis benefits schizophrenics.
Lead researcher of the largest study of its kind, which consisted of over two thousand people and was sponsored by the US National Institutes of Health’s National Institute on Drug Abuse, Dr Donald Tashkin, stated:
“We hypothesized that there would be a positive association between marijuana use and lung cancer, and that the association would be more positive with heavier use”. “What we found instead was no association at all, and even a suggestion of some protective effect”.
There are even scientific studies concluding that cannabis is safer than most off-the-shelf substances.
Cannabis prohibition results in thousands of deaths due to its illegal trade and police crossfire, fuels organised crime, exposes cannabis users to hard drugs, wastes police resources and does more harm than good.
We’ve had this counterproductive, misguided policy for a century. It’s time for a second opinion.