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Is Weed Legal in South Africa now? What you need to know about Cannabis

The legalisation of the private use of Marijuana in South Africa has of late been a controversial topic. With substantial arguments supporting both the legalisation and the criminalisation of cannabis– what are we to believe?

Is Weed Legal in South Africa now?

Decriminalising Cannabis

A recent judgement in the Western Cape High Court was greeted with jubilation by many cannabis users.

Although the state provided expert testimony on the harmful effect of dagga on both health and society, a report by Professor Mark Shaw of the University of Cape Town — called ‘Balancing Harms in Cannabis policy for South Africa’ was also submitted to the court. This report supported the view that disciplinary drug policies do not reduce rates of drug use.

A Quote: "The evidence, holistically read together with the arguments presented to this court, suggests that the blunt instrument of the criminal law as employed in the impugned legislation is disproportionate to the harms that the legislation seeks to curb insofar as the personal use of cannabis is concerned." Davis J

Additionally, Shaw’s report also presented mechanisms, which could be used to reduce drug use without imposing criminal sanctions.

Furthermore, several other studies have also shown that decriminalisation is a better way to address the harm that results from drug use.

Results supporting these findings can be seen in countries like Uruguay, Australia, Portugal, Switzerland, Spain, the Czech Republic and several states within the USA.

Having cannabis decriminalised means that people seeking help with their addiction can comfortably ask for it without fearing prosecution. In addition, decriminalisation opens up funds that would have been spent on convicting a person for cannabis, making it possible to invest these funds in improving rehabilitation centres and bettering addiction recovery programmes.

It also means that by decriminalising cannabis, it saves people from having to make contact with drug dealers, some of whom lace their cannabis with harmful substances and sell drugs like Cocaine and Meth. By removing this aspect people won’t have to come into contact with dirty or hard drugs.

Decriminalisation does not mean legalisation

The court made a ruling that seeks to limit the State in regulating the private behaviour of individuals in the privacy of their own homes.

“… in what way government may dictate, regulate or proscribe conduct considered to be harmful as well as what is the threshold the harm must cross in order for government to intervene.”

To quote from the report ‘Balancing Harms in Cannabis policy for South Africa’

“There are few data to indicate that supply reduction via criminalisation is effective in reducing cannabis abuse. At the same time there are insufficient data to indicate that the legalisation of cannabis would not be harmful. The immediate focus should therefore be decriminalisation rather than legalisation.”

High Times – A few problems on the horizon

With that said, as a rehabilitation centre in South Africa, we have seen numerous cases of cannabis dependence, and although cannabis is nothing like what we call “hard drugs” such as Heroin or Crack, it still can be extremely detrimental to the user.

Yes, cannabis doesn’t have its users crippled over with withdrawal pains or committing crimes to obtain it.

However, cannabis doesn’t work that way. You see for many “pot heads” the evidence of their addiction is in their circumstance and everyday life.

All the medical evidence points to the harmful effects of prolonged heavy usage. And it is the harmful effect of this that we regularly see at Step Away Rehabilitation Centre.

Weed Demotivation

Of course you have the exception, where there are people in high paid jobs with huge responsibilities that manage to smoke cannabis and still succeed.

But you also have the situation where there are people who smoke cannabis daily and accomplish very little with their lives. These people tend to work in jobs that “pay the bills”, they tend to be less driven and motivated to think bigger and they always put their smoking first.

This is what we call amotivation, and it is a very real issue among users.

Also termed amotivational syndrome, this psychological condition causes people to become less oriented towards their aspirations, goals and purposes in life, as well as less focused in general every day activities.

The truth is, abusing cannabis daily is not good for anyone…

Although decriminalisation is nowhere near being finalised, the recent high court ruling ordered that certain provisions of the Drugs and Drug Trafficking Act and the Medicines and Related Substances Control Act were inconsistent with the Constitution of South Africa where these relate to the possession, purchase or cultivation of cannabis for personal consumption by an adult and for very good reason.

Cannabis Use among Children and Teens

  • Neurodevelopment is particularly active during childhood and adolescence and continues until at least age 25. Heavy abuse of weed during that time has been linked to permanent problems with memory, mood issues, learning, perception, impulse control, organisation, and time management.
  • Additionally, heavy pot use during adolescence has been linked to depression, anxiety and early onset of psychoses such as schizophrenia, paranoid and bipolar disorders.
  • Although studies cannot conclude whether the use of weed causes psychosis to those who wouldn’t normally develop symptoms or whether predisposed individuals tend to seek out weed to help them deal with their problems, there is evidence that the heavy use of weed during adolescence and psychosis are linked.
  • Smoking or ingesting weed releases dopamine into the brain. Dopamine is part of the pleasure reward system in the brain, another part that is actively developing throughout adolescence and disturbing its development may cause permanent damage.
  • A high release of dopamine indicates to your brain that you should do that pleasurable activity again. The same thing happens when you have sex, listen to music or eat junk food. However, by flooding your brain with dopamine on a constant basis it could lead to an increase in tolerance and as a result an increase in usage, because the user won’t receive the same joys from weed as they used to – consequently causing possible depression and anxiety.

Cannabis Use Disorder

Cannabis Use Disorder is the continual use of cannabis despite clinically significant distress or impairment – this disorder occurs in both adolescents and adulthood.

This disorder characteristically includes:

  • a strong desire to take the drug,
  • difficulties in controlling its use,
  • persisting in its use despite harmful consequences,
  • a higher priority given to drug use than to other activities and obligations,
  • increased tolerance,
  • and sometimes a physical withdrawal state - such as mood swings, lack of apathy or agitation.
  • Marijuana dependence develops in between 30% of users – a figure you can’t ignore.

Step Away Rehabilitation Centre South Africa

It’s important to remember that too much of a good thing can be a bad thing.

With the legalisation on the horizon, it’s up to us - parents, schools and communities to educate our children on the risks associated with early dagga abuse. We need to make it clear that although the laws around weed are changing, the effects of abusing it have not.

Additionally, we need to make sure that our children understand that no amount of peer pressure can force them to do anything and that smoking weed won’t make them fit in.

For more information about our drug and alcohol rehabilitation centre, please contact us.

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