Dagga ruling will have side-effects – medical association

A Rastafarian smokes a joint outside the Constitutional Court on September 18, 2018 after the ConCourt has ruled that the personal use of marijuana is not a criminal offence, South Africans are allowed to smoke and grow dagga at home. Photo: Cebisile Mbonani

Amid the excitement at the recent Constitutional Court ruling legalising dagga possession for private use, the South African Medical Association (Sama) has some issues.

Sama said support structures were needed to curb the drug’s negative effects on society and to assist addicts. It is to make a submission to parliament in this regard.

Sama president Mzukisi Grootboom said the ruling “comes as the country faces a big problem of abuse of alcohol and illegal drugs”.

In support of the SA Society of Psychiatrists’ (Sasop) concerns about the ruling, Grootboom said documented evidence showed cannabis had extensive personal and societal side-effects. Sasop claimed that 9% of those who tried cannabis would become addicted to it, increasing to one in six when use starts during adolescence.

Sasop member Dr Abdul Kader Domingo explained: “Human brain development and maturation is guided by the body’s endogenous cannabinoid system and occurs until the early 20s.

“Exposure to phyto-cannabinoids [in cannabis] during this vulnerable period may disrupt brain maturation and affect aspects of memory, attention, processing speed and overall intelligence.

“Cannabis use during adolescence may cause lasting cognitive deficits, even after sustained abstinence.”

Grootboom added: “The emphasis should be on what the Constitutional Court said in its ruling – that use should be restricted to adults and in private.

“Given the societal challenges South Africa faces, this ruling may have unintended consequences. We lack support structures for addicts, which we’re discussing with the Royal Dutch Medical Association.

“It’s the lack of these structures, which Holland has, that our submission will be based on.”

Brian Sokutu / The Citizen