High Court Blunders into Dagga Minefield


Doctors for Life International (DFL) is deeply concerned by the judgment of the Western Cape High Court (3 April 2017) that allows, subject to legislation to be passed in the next 24 months, the private growing and use of Cannabis Sativa. The court has rushed into an area they should only tread into after reviewing systematic, evidence-based research. The pending case to be heard in the Pretoria High Court was set to do this in August of 2017.

What people do with Cannabis in the privacy of their homes is relevant to the whole of society. Firstly, because of the semi-long-term effects of Cannabis that last up to 21 days after ingestion. These include poor coordination and slowed reaction time, which can lead to fatal traffic and work place accidents.

Secondly, the decision has disastrous consequences for the youth. It will be virtually impossible to prevent children from being exposed to the smoking of cannabis and its detrimental health consequences such as impaired verbal IQ, memory, reduced decision making and an increased prevalence of psychosis later in life. The drop in IQ has been thoroughly researched: IQ drop was demonstrated if used and quit before 18 years of age. IQ drop is highest when used before age 18 and still addicted at age 38. IQ drop is associated with the length of time addiction.

During the teenage years the brain is especially vulnerable because it prunes unneeded connections, grows in size, wires cortical dopamine circuits, strengthens connections and reorganizes brain function as a whole. Furthermore, the US state of Colorado's experience clearly shows an increase in emergency admissions to hospitals due to small children ingesting cannabis by mistake due to the reckless behaviour of parents.

There is no doubt that any cultivation of Cannabis Sativa, even for research purposes, can have serious public health consequences and that it should be properly regulated by legislation.

Doctors for Life International Media Release, 3 April 2017.

Help Doctors for Life Fight this Case in the Pretoria High Court!
Fields of Green for All has been pushing to legalize/decriminalise the use of Cannabis (Dagga). Even though they won in the Western Cape High Court, they will still be pushing their case in Gauteng. The upcoming court case that has been dragging on for 5 years is finally culminating in a court case to be heard on 31 July – 25 August 2017. Fields of Green for All booked the court for 19 days and Doctors for Life has joined the case as a separate party presenting critical and valuable contributions to oppose the legalization/decriminalisation of cannabis.

DFL’s expert witnesses include 1) Prof. Bertha Madras, a Professor of Psychobiology in the Department of Psychiatry at Harvard Medical School. She is the former Deputy Director for Demand Reduction (prevention, treatment) in the White House Office of National Drug Control Policy, Executive Office of the President, a position unanimously confirmed by the US Senate. 2) Mr. David Evans, who as a law practitioner was involved in addictions law, addictions consulting, drug and alcohol-free workplaces, drug and alcohol testing and government affairs on drug and alcohol issues, and as a research scientist undertook analysis of legal and regulatory requirements regarding drug and alcohol abuse, research and data collection, courts and criminal justice.

In submissions by our expert witnesses, we are providing critical information demonstrating the serious side-effects of ingesting/smoking the whole plant. These side-effects can be divided into those associated with acute intoxication, those experienced up to 21 days after ingested/smoked, and the long-term/permanent side-effects. The disastrous effects which the legalization/decriminalisation of cannabis (Dagga) will have on South Africa in terms of motor vehicle accidents; due to delayed reaction time and the inability to perform complex actions etc is of special importance. Furthermore we demonstrate the permanent/long-term damage it has been shown to have when used by teenagers including a significant drop in IQ measured at 38yrs of age and a correlation with social problems such as school drop-outs and workplace problems to mention but a few.

The whole argument about ‘medical marijuana’ (dagga) is also addressed in our submission. Conflating the use of the cannabis plant as a whole with isolated cannabinoids misunderstands the scientific literature and confuses doctors, policy makers and patients. The ‘medical marijuana’ movement is using this to blur regulatory and legal boundaries. This is properly demonstrated in the Doctors for Life submission. The psycho-active effects of ingesting/smoking the whole plant, poses a significant ethical obstacle in double-blinded clinical trials and makes it inappropriate to be moved from a schedule 7 to a schedule 6 drug that can be prescribed by doctors.

Although our attorneys are willing to work pro bono for only two thirds of the costs, the amount we still need to cover is R1 million. We appeal to you to inform us of any individual or organization that may be in a position to contribute or help us raise this amount. Stand proud with us as we protect the integrity of what it means to be a true example for the generations to come!

Yours Sincerely,

Albu van Eeden
CEO, Doctors for Life International

Doctors for Life International represents 1531 medical doctors and specialists of which three-quarters practice in South Africa. Since 1991 DFL has been actively promoting sound science in the medical profession and health care that is safe and efficient for all South Africans. For more information visit: www.doctorsforlife.co.za

Tel: 032 481 5807/5550
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