Pro-legalization lobbyists love the word 'prohibition' as it carries with it certain connotations. They seek to remind people of the failed alcohol prohibition in America in the 1920's as if it were the only case of prohibition on record. Hollywood is responsible for many misconceptions surrounding these events that now seem to be accepted as historical fact.
There have in fact been many cases of restrictions or prohibitions in recent times which ran successfully and showed very positive results. If prohibition does not work, why then is there virtually no drugs to be found (including dagga), in those countries where the death penalty is in enforced for drug possession and dealing? Although this is an extreme measure it is effective and perhaps we should be considering tightening the legislation that relates to dagga (England just has), rather than considering removing it altogether.
Let us consider that so called 'prohibition' laws do not put people in jail, people who consciously choose to break the laws of our country put themselves in jail! Cultivating, selling and using dagga is against the law of South Africa as we all know. One cannot simply disregard this because it does not suit their choice of lifestyle. Should an individual choose to indulge themselves in such activities, they bring the resulting repercussions upon themselves.
In a recent interview, one lobbyist stated that 'prohibition' brought teenagers and others into contact with the criminal element. He says that users have to resort to associating with these individuals in order to purchase their dagga and are exposed to other substances and dangers in the process. This despite the fact that purchasing dagga is a criminal offence (which makes them criminals themselves) and if people did not use the drug they would have no reason to place themselves in these situations in the first place.
Claims that people in South Africa are 'falling foul' of dagga laws are common. Is the law, and the law relating to dagga in particular, some sort of wicked trap in which innocent people are caught? These are laws which lead to the arrest and prosecution of individuals who have wilfully broken them. Dagga is illegal, end of story, and those in contact with it are in breach of the law and will therefore be treated as such.
To consider removing legislation against dagga is to consider removing the motivation for users to stop, as there are no penalties to be faced if caught with the drug. In addition, such a step would remove a barrier that would make people who are considering trying dagga, or selling dagga, think twice before doing so. Strict laws which are diligently enforced by the police and courts are a deterrent stronger than any parental warning against dagga. Such warnings are not powerful enough to overcome the brute force and influence of peer pressure amongst youth to experiment with this drug. In fact, the only real threat to widespread dagga use by any age group is the possibility of imprisonment.
Many claim that the prosecution of a dagga user is worse for the user than the effects of the drug itself. How willing is society to protect itself against certain threats? It is true that it is unpleasant and painful to arrest and imprison people and to burden them with criminal records. However this is, and always has been, done to deter others from committing similar offences. People are aware of what the penalties for being arrested on dagga related charges are and therefore understand the risk involved should they proceed to use this drug. It is argued that continuing to arrest dagga users stops the police from making better use of the resources that this task requires. This has never actually been proven as a fact and these bodies are in fact created, maintained and funded for the very purpose of dealing with those who break the law, including those that relate to the use of dagga.
The 'broken windows' theory states that maintaining and monitoring urban environments in a well-ordered condition may stop further vandalism and escalation into more serious crime, and such is the case with 'minor' offenses such as the possession of dagga.
Consider a building with a few broken windows. If the windows are not repaired, the tendency is for vandals to break a few more windows. Eventually, they may even break into the building, and if it's unoccupied, perhaps become squatters or light fires inside. Or consider a pavement. Some litter accumulates. Soon, more litter accumulates. Eventually, people even start leaving bags of refuse there or eventually start to break into cars parked nearby. In the same way when police begin to ignore 'minor' offenses, crime and disorder take over the street. Where there is dagga there are usually other illegal substances and activities close by.
There was a case where the chief of police in a certain city overseas decided to come down heavily on petty crimes such as parking offences, being drunk in public and other similar offenses. As a result of clamping down on these minor offenses, serious crime dropped in that city by a considerable percentage. It is true, the law cannot eradicate the use of dagga entirely, and there are those that claim that for this reason, the law is of no use and should be done away with. Yet these are the same people who actively combat the law and the police's efforts to enforce laws against dagga. Their misinformation and propaganda campaigns encourage new users and make the work of the police and those that enforce the law extremely difficult. They are undermining, with all their might, the system they claim is failing.
It is equally true that the complete eradication of burglary, drunk driving, insurance fraud and many other undesirable acts is not achievable through the application of laws against these crimes. Yet the law, in its various forms is still used in a determined and systematic way to reduce all of these vices to the lowest level possible. There will always be those who choose to break the law but the laws in place against dagga diminish and deter its use and should remain where they are as dagga damages individuals, their families and society. To abandon the struggle against a crime because it is ineradicable would be to abandon the struggle against all crime and will result in lawlessness.
By stating an impossible goal, the complete eradication of dagga, and by saying that because it is impossible no steps should be taken against dagga at all, is not a logical argument. The law is aimed at the controlling and limiting of the demand for dagga. How can this be done if users themselves are not subject to legal action?