"What about cigarettes and alcohol?" is a red herring regularly thrown the public's way by those advocating the legalization of dagga in South Africa.
Nobody in South Africa can claim ignorance of the numbers killed in drunk driving incidents, alcohol fuelled violence or by lung cancer. What this proves though, is that we should be extremely cautious in going ahead with the decision to add a third substance to this already toxic mix. For years people warned society about the dangers of tobacco and alcohol and only now are people accepting the truth about these substances, and only after the loss of hundreds of thousands of lives. Should we as a nation not heed the many warnings surrounding the legalization of dagga? Should dagga be legalized and the negative consequences begin to show themselves further down the road, it would be extremely difficult to reverse the decision at such a late stage of the process and to once again make dagga illegal. This is the situation we now find ourselves in with alcohol and tobacco.
All substances are dangerous in their own way and to compare dagga with cigarettes and alcohol achieves no result. Dagga may never have killed anyone (at least not directly and not that we know of yet) but in its effect on mental health for example, it could be considered more deadly than heroin. Dagga smoke is in fact more dangerous by far than cigarette smoke. Once dagga is burned (combusted), thousands of chemicals such as ammonia and hydrogen cyanide are produced and enter into the body. It contains far more tar, carbon monoxide and other cancer causing substances. In some cases up to 70% more! These toxins which are produced during combustion are the reason that the smoking of dagga is especially harmful to the human body.
Cigarettes are already generally accepted by the public as being extremely toxic and dangerous, yet they contain far less toxins than the smoke produced by dagga which we are lead to believe is a safe drug! Can a substance which contains chemicals such as cyanide and ammonia be considered safe and beneficial?
By legalizing dagga for use, the state will be giving their 'stamp of approval' that the positive qualities of the substance far outweigh its bad qualities. They must first take into consideration the harm to society that would result, which far outweighs the benefits of the freedom to smoke and use dagga freely and legally.