Lobbyists claim the legalization of dagga will help to control and regulate the drug, keeping it out of the hands of the youth of South Africa. They cite the regulations and laws surrounding alcohol and tobacco as a practical example of the success of this approach, claiming that it is difficult for youngsters to get their hands on these substances!

It has never been difficult, and is easier now than ever before, for children to get their hands on cigarettes and alcohol, despite the supposed success of this method of legalization and control. Never before have so many school aged children smoked and drunk alcohol! Whatever steps may have been taken to protect the youth from these vices have failed, that much is clear.

It is as easy for a teenager to get their hands on alcohol and tobacco today as it is for them to walk into a shop and buy a sweet, and there are no real deterrents against doing so as these are classed as legal substances. The only deterrent is perhaps being caught smoking or drinking by parents or teachers, and as children become increasing rebellious, even the danger of being caught by one’s elders is no longer something that is feared.

Now we have those who wish to throw dagga into this already toxic mix. Drugs are dangerous in the hands of those who know little about them. The man (or child) on the street has virtually no knowledge of the truth of what the negative repercussions of smoking dagga could be. And yet, whilst CYPSA and so many other organizations continue to educate the youth on the dangers of dagga, and to fight back against the devastation caused by this drug, there are groups fighting for the legalization of the very same substance we witness destroying lives daily.

By legalizing dagga, the state will be giving their ‘stamp of approval’ that the positive qualities of dagga far outweigh its bad qualities. They will be saying that this substance is safe for our children, as make no mistake, it will be easier for kids to get their hands on dagga than ever before! Any proposed controls and regulations will not succeed in stopping an increase in the use of dagga by the youth once it has been legalized. This will undermine the efforts of all parties involved in the fight to save our nation’s youth from drugs, and will lead the youth to believe that smoking dagga is only harmless fun and an acceptable pastime.

If there is any deterrent left to the young person considering giving dagga a try, it is the fact that it is an illegal substance for which they could be arrested and prosecuted, and that its status as an illegal substance means that it is still viewed in a much more serious light than either alcohol or cigarettes (regrettably so as they are equally destructive). They could be expelled from school or lose their job as the use of dagga is still against the law. The offense of being caught in possession of, selling or high on dagga is still considered very serious by most, and these possible consequences still hold many back from crossing the line into the world of drugs.

Removing legislation against dagga removes the motivation for young users to stop, as there are no penalties to be faced if caught with the drug. Legalization would remove a barrier that would make kids who are considering trying dagga or selling dagga think twice before doing so.

What will happen when this last barrier is removed? What motivations not to smoke dagga will be left? Kids will see smoking a dagga joint in exactly the same light as smoking a cigarette! After all – they’re not breaking the law!

Despite arguments to the contrary, dagga being illegal does not drive children into the hands of drug dealers or expose them to other ‘harder’ drugs. A lack of discipline and parental supervision and guidance does! These children should not be looking for dagga in the first place – anywhere! Neither should any other citizen for that matter, as it is illegal to do so!

Parents, doctors and teachers, those who actually work with children, know first-hand the harmful effects of dagga use which makes research merely a formality. We have a far more realistic and rational outlook on the issue of legalizing dagga than most, based on our extensive experience in working with the youth and drug afflicted of South Africa. To argue that to legalize dagga would protect our children and make our society safer for them to live in, is an argument that could only originate with or be believed by someone who… well… smokes dagga!