Pubdate: Wed, 30 Mar 2016
Source: Cape Times (South Africa)
Copyright: 2016 Cape Times
Author: Stephen Pain
Note: Pain is a member of Friends of the Earth CC


I HAVE yet to read the texts recommended by Clifford Schaffer in his 
letter "Drug laws not helping" on March 15, but otherwise I agree 
wholeheartedly with his views.

Richard Nixon, under immense pressure following the US disaster in 
Vietnam and the looming Watergate affair, desperately needed a 
rallying cry to divert the public's attention and a "war on drugs" 
fitted the bill perfectly.

It also put the blame for the thousands of returning heroin-addicted 
GIs wholly on the drug itself and not on their horrific wartime experiences.

In The Pursuit of Oblivion: A Social History of Drugs, Richard 
Davenport-Hines observed: "Nixon was a chronic insomniac who indulged 
in binge-drinking when stressed.

"He also acquired a clandestine drug habit from his friendship with 
the New York financier Jack Dreyfus.

"Dreyfus credited the anticonvulsant phenytoin (Dilantin) with curing 
his chronic depression in 1958 and spent a fortune promoting the drug.

"Nixon asked Dreyfus for some Dilantin in 1968 and was given a bottle 
containing 1 000 pills. Nixon procured further supplies from Dreyfus 
and may have been mixing Dilantin, alcohol and sleeping pills during 
his final months in the White House."

Such was the mind-state of the man largely responsible for current 
drug policy, also in this country. Our government's continuing 
support of Nixon's war on drugs was reported in this newspaper on 
March 11 in a report titled "SA 'under attack from heroin, coke' ".

There was no mention of crystal methamphetamine (tik) or methaqualone 
(mandrax), although both are widespread throughout the province. (In 
fact the photograph of officers laboriously "counting drugs" looked 
very much like mandrax buttons to me.)

Police Minister Nathi Nhleko underlined his opposition also to 
marijuana, so he obviously hadn't read this newspaper's Business 
Report article on March 8 about the success of the US's burgeoning 
legal marijuana market.

And as far as I know there have been no reports from the newly 
legalised states of dagga-crazed addicts roaming the streets and 
causing mayhem.

Of course the need to separate the issue of marijuana from the 
problem of drugs is not one for the police minister alone, but must 
be addressed sensibly by the government as a whole.

Our government should also note the Business Report article on 
December 22 about the huge financial and environmental cost of 
growing cannabis indoors in the US. It is estimated that they burnt 
$6 billion of electricity in 2012 alone and the market is growing 
rapidly as more states legalise.

We should be growing it here in sunlight, reducing carbon pollution 
and earning ourselves some dollars in the process.

I am quite convinced that here in Riversdale, which is a generally 
conservative farming community, a majority - and quite a large one at 
that - of people believe that the use of marijuana/dagga in the home 
should be a personal choice for each individual adult.

I say this because since my appearance before the local magistrate on 
March 14 on charges of "cultivation and possession of dagga", I have 
been overwhelmed by words of support (many in strict confidence of 
course) from all sectors of the community. There are Rastafarians who 
are openly supportive, as are many of the alternative/new age 
lifestylers in our area.

A clear majority of historically disadvantaged individuals seem to be 
in favour of personal choice. But I've also been approached by 
conservative Christians seeking medicinal cannabis oil for ill or 
dying friends and relatives.

There are farmers - regte plaas boere - who would far rather their 
employees get stoned on weed than drunk on alcohol, the immediate and 
subsequent effects of the former being far less troublesome than 
those of the latter.

I have been offered seeds to start growing again, and dagga to keep 
me going so long, by respectable pillars of the community; business 
owners who either use it themselves or know somebody close by who does.

And there are policemen and court officials - too scared to speak up 
of course - who are sick of enforcing such an unpopular law when they 
have many more important cases piling up.

Lastly, I had to smile at this newspaper's report on March 16, "New 
drug stirs pot of hope"; not so much at the subeditor's witty 
headline, but because of the learned words of GW Pharmaceuticals 
chief executive Julian Glover, who said "Cannabinoids can produce 
compelling and clinically important data, and represent a highly 
promising new class of medications", this in relation to treating 
children with a rare, severe form of epilepsy.

But there is nothing "new" about using cannabis-based preparations to 
treat epilepsy. On July 4, 1840, a pioneering paper by Sir William 
O'Shaughnessy-Brooke "On the preparations of the Indian hemp 
(Cannabis indica)" was published in the Lancet. The Indian Hemp Drugs 
Commission of 1894 reported: "Cannabis indica must be regarded as one 
of the most important drugs of Indian Materia Medica."

It was used to treat brain fever, cramps, convulsions in children... 
and a host of other ailments.

And as Davenport-Hines (ibid) remarks: "Many European physicians were 
impressed by hemp's effects on convulsive children..."

An amendment of the marijuana laws in South Africa is clearly long overdue.
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MAP posted-by: Jay Bergstrom