According to research done in 2007, cannabis is the most common illicit substance used in South Africa, with particularly high use among the youth.
Self-reported cannabis use was 5 – 10% among adolescents and 2% among adults, higher among men than women, higher in urban than rural areas, higher in the urban provinces of Western Cape and Gauteng than the other provinces and higher among coloureds and whites than other racial groups.
Myth 1. Pot is legal in Holland and Portugal
Fact: Contrary to common belief, marijuana is illegal in the Netherlands, but as long as you’re not bothering anyone, officials generally turn a blind eye. In Amsterdam, social use is acceptable. Residents and visitors can legally buy marijuana in coffee shops where it can be consumed inside or outside the premises.
In Portugal small quantities of marijuana for personal use are allowed, but must be consumed privately. Growing the plant however is illegal and cannabis seeds are prohibited. Portugal has decriminalized all drugs, but that is not the same as legalization.
Myth 2. Criminalizing marijuana protects kids
Fact: A US government survey done about a decade ago showed that more teens were smoking pot than cigarettes. At the time an expert said that teenagers viewed marijuana as less dangerous than cigarettes. One out of 15 high school students reported that they smoke pot most days. This was a 30-year peak.
Myth 3. It is in line with the Constitution to ban marijuana in SA
Fact: In 2017 the Western Cape High Court declared certain sections of the Drugs and Drug Trafficking Act and the Medicines Act inconsistent and invalid with the Constitution.
According to the landmark ruling it is an infringement to ban the use of marijuana by adults in private homes. The court has also ruled that Parliament must change sections of the Drug Trafficking Act, as well as the Medicines Control Act.
Before the court decision takes effect, the Constitutional Court must confirm the declaration of invalidity. If confirmed, it will be suspended for some months to allow parliament to correct the defects as set out in the judgment.
This means that once the suspension period has passed, cannabis may be used by an adult in private dwellings where the possession, purchase or cultivation of cannabis is for personal consumption by an adult.
Myth 4. Smoking marijuana causes cancer
Fact: Both marijuana smoke and tobacco smoke, contain carcinogens. However, research shows that marijuana smokers generally smoke much less pot than the cigarettes smoked by tobacco users, but most likely not enough to cause cancer. A 2006 UCLA study concluded that even heavy marijuana use does not lead to lung cancer. The study suggests that marijuana can inhibit the growth of tumours. Smoking is not the only way to consume marijuana. The risks are linked to smoking.
Myth 5. Dagga leads to crime
Fact: In South Africa cannabis is often associated with crime. Use of the plant is higher among offenders than nonoffenders, but marijuana does not cause criminal behaviour. In fact it could be the other way round – that criminals are more likely to use drugs. Dagga, unlike alcohol, generally does not make people aggressive, which makes it difficult to link it to violent crime.
New research has shown that the introduction of medical marijuana laws (MMLs) in US states bordering Mexico has resulted in a decrease in violent crime in those states.
Myth 6. Marijuana is a gateway drug
Fact: The majority of people who use marijuana do not go on to use other, so called harder substances. An alternative to the gateway-drug hypothesis is that people who are more vulnerable to drug-taking are simply more likely to start with readily available substances such as tobacco or alcohol, and their subsequent social interactions with others who use drugs increases their chances of trying other drugs.
Kids who use marijuana are statistically more likely to go on to use other drugs, but that doesn’t mean marijuana use causes use of other drugs. The same factors driving marijuana use probably explain use of other drugs. A report by the Institute of Medicine found “no conclusive evidence that the drug effects of marijuana are causally linked to the subsequent abuse of other illicit drugs”.
Myth 7. Dagga is a dangerous drug
Myth 8. Cannabis is totally safe to use
Fact: As with smoking tobacco, smoking too much marijuana can be detrimental to your health as the two are chemically similar causing respiratory illnesses such as bronchitis. These risks are linked to smoking pot, which is only one way of using marijuana. Driving while under the influence of marijuana can cause accidents, but the risk is lower than driving under the influence of alcohol.
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