Since the landmark cannabis ruling in September 2018, there have been some heated debates around braais and dinner tables surrounding the use of cannabis. Why are we so wound up about it? It might have to do with our astounding number of drug-related criminal offences - of which South Africans are possibly listed in the top 1%.
The fact is, for those who “don’t get it”, the argument is that it could lead to an increase in drug abuse and further drug-related offences. For the enthusiasts, saving the cannabis industry could lead to a more harmonious ‘chill’ environment. Browse the relevant sections below to find out how regulation could lead to a sustainable industry.
Debunking common myths
That Tuesday evening in September last year made for interesting dinner conversation. Since the ruling, those against recreational cannabis use have created think pieces, or ranted, on social media about the disastrous result.
Pro-cannabis individuals had a hard time defending themselves because the truth is that this is new ground for South Africa. Along with Canada - who also legalised marijuana just a month after - we can’t know with certainty that everyone will be okay. What those in the cannabis industry can do, is build an ethical and transparent community that can ease everyone’s concerns.
There are plenty of misconceptions when it comes to cannabis use, including the following:
Legalisation could make it more accessible to teens
The South African Community Epidemiology Network on Drug Use said that a study conducted on drug use in the country showed a total of 38% of patients in treatment were younger than 25 years old, and 7% of those were between the ages of 10 and 14. While the drugs used were likely stronger than cannabis, the saying goes that “weed is the gateway”.
Because we are new to cannabis legalisation, we can look to our friends over in the U.S.A.. - the Marijuana Policy Project is an organisation that leads marijuana legalisation campaigns in the country. They have suggested that “study after study has confirmed that marijuana policy reforms do not cause rates of youth marijuana use to increase. The most in-depth state surveys suggest modest decreases in rates of youth marijuana use in Colorado and Washington.”
A report by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration further indicates that despite the rise of retail cannabis shops in Colorado and Washington since 2014, cannabis use among teenagers in those areas was lower in 2015/16 than in 2014/15.
Excessive cannabis use could lead to mental health problems
This all boils down to transparency, and the quality of cannabis being produced. One of the strongest arguments for legalisation is that drugs sold by dealers are often cut with harmful substances, which could increase the risk of mental health problems. In Washington, the law requires health warnings, quality assurance, labelling for the concentration of THC, and other important regulations for cannabis users.
Many people use cannabis to ease the symptoms of depression, anxiety or insomnia. Researchers at Washington State University have found that having at least 10 puffs of marijuana could lead to “significant reductions in self-reported stress, while two puffs of cannabis with any level of CBD or THC led to a reduction in anxiety.”
What’s wrong with the cannabis industry
According to a report by marijuana consultancy firm, Prohibition Partners, the cannabis industry could be worth R27 billion by 2023. The recent awarding of a license by medicines regulator, SAHPRA, to cultivate cannabis for medicinal purposes is a win for the medical marijuana communities. By all accounts, everything should be on the up, but people still have questions and concerns.
Legalisation for private use and cultivation of cannabis by adults raises several important ethical and legal considerations for policy-makers in our country. South Africa has a strong wake-and-bake culture. If an employee arrives at work baked, and is having trouble completing work, the Occupational Health and Safety Act in South Africa has employers covered, and they can stop employees from entering the workplace.
The problem lies with testing, as experts suggest that it is a little challenging. According to Howard Dembovsky of Justice Project SA, while testing for cannabis can be done via a urine sample or hair molecule sample, the presence of THC in a urine sample can be present for up to 6 weeks after ingestion.
So, the South African Parliament is really going to have a great (and lengthy) time trying to nail down the logistics and ethics involved. We suggest they bring along snacks.
How to foster ethical cannabis communities
As mentioned earlier, transparency is key to building an ethical community. We’re not saying that this should be a topic for a Life Orientation period at school (wouldn’t it be nice!), but education goes a long way.
It’s all about abiding by the law - perhaps avoid going to work extremely stoned - this could help everyone gain trust. Do your due diligence by shopping for high-quality seeds when growing cannabis, and try not to mix harmful substances just because you’re greedy.
To build an ethical community means to operate honestly. Shopping for cannabis has become as mainstream as shopping for clothing. Marijuana industries around the world are growing, and soon we’ll be seeing laws evolve along with it. A legitimate community means that shopping for cannabis should be accessible, especially for new users (a hearty welcome to you if you’re new around here).
AskMaryJ.com is doing its bit to build a sustainable cannabis community. A quick browse around our website will show a list of businesses that share our ethics. Shopping for cannabis-related products should be simple, and we’re here to help guide. Think of us as a Sherpa as you enter the world of marijuana.
From seed banks to dispensaries, get highly-rated reviews that will help you select the best products. Your cannabis experience should be a good trip and we’re here to help make it happen!