Pubdate: Wed, 03 Oct 2012
Source: Zambia Daily Mail (Zambia)
Copyright: 2012 Zambia Daily Mail
Author: Caroline Kalombe


THE Drug Enforcement Commission (DEC) has maintained that marijuana 
is an illegal substance that shall continue to attract punishment by 
law in Zambia.

The DEC was responding to an opinion authored by US-based Zambian 
Professor Kenneth Mwenda who wants to see the drug legalised.

Marijuana is a dry, shredded green, brown or grey mixture of flowers, 
stems, seeds, and leaves obtained from the hemp plant scientifically 
known as Cannabis sativa.

DEC public relations officer Samuel Silomba told the Zambia Daily 
Mail in a statement that there is no credible research both locally 
and abroad that supports Prof. Mwenda's desire to have the drug legalised.

"Current research does not support the idea that marijuana is 
harmless," Mr Silomba said, adding that many studies indicate that 
marijuana usage leads to "crime, violence, drug dependence and the 
use of other drugs".

Prof. Kenneth Mwenda's article was published as an opinion under the 
title: 'Legalising marijuana: to smoke or not to smoke?'

Mr Silomba said research shows that cultivation of cannabis poses a 
threat to food security, as most peasant farmers were replacing 
cultivation of crops such as rice, yam, maize and cassava with cannabis.

He said cannabis abuse adversely affects productivity and development 
in African communities and poses a direct threat to the health of users.

"Professor Mwenda under-stated the negative effects of cannabis use, 
by dwelling more on the perceived benefits of the drug," he said.

Mr Silomba said legalising marijuana will not only increase the 
number of addicts but will also lead to government redirecting money 
meant for development projects to the treatment and reintegration of addicts.

He said the economic argument for legalising cannabis cultivation has 
been considered as unethical and uneconomic.

"The economic argument is based on poor fiscal logic as any reduction 
in the cost of drug control will be offset by much higher expenditure 
on public health," Mr Silomba said.

He added that cannabis is the "gateway to abuse of hard drugs such as 
cocaine and heroin which can lead to severe health problems.

Mr Silomba expressed sadness that Prof. Mwenda is "inciting 
Rastafarians and young people to push for the legalisation of 
cultivation, sale and use of marijuana."

In the article, Prof. Mwenda argues that as long as society allows or 
approves the abuse of more harmful drugs such as alcohol and tobacco, 
which are often consumed on a more regular basis and in large 
amounts, then the authorities might as well permit adults the free 
choice to smoke marijuana.

"Otherwise, let us ban alcohol and tobacco as well," he argues.

He says Rastafarians in Zambia, for example, should bring action 
before the High Court, arguing that the law that prohibits the 
cultivation, smoking, selling or buying cannabis is unconstitutional 
because it contravenes the petitioners' constitutionally guaranteed 
freedoms of conscience and expression, especially if the petitioners 
can show that the use of marijuana remains a central part of their 
Rastafarian religion.
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MAP posted-by: Jay Bergstrom