"Dedicating police officers and resources towards arresting cannabis [dagga] users is wasting taxpayers' money, and police should instead focus their attentions on stopping rape and murder. "We need to have a good relationship between the people and police, and cannabis prohibition is undermining this." So said the "Dagga Couple" at the Crime Stoppers International conference hosted in Cape Town recently.

CYPSA believes that a good relationship between the country's police service and the public is essential, and we ourselves have developed a sound relationship with the South African Police Service in the years since our organization was established.
This is not the first time that we have heard the argument that continuing to arrest dagga users stops the police, courts and probation services from making better use of the resources that they have at their disposal. What we must accept here however, is that these bodies were in fact created and are maintained and funded, for the very purpose of dealing with people who break the law, regardless of which laws are broken. The time and resources, including funding, that they have at their disposal is supposed to be utilized to prosecute breaches of the law, including those that involve dagga in any way, shape or form!

"WE SMOKED DAGGA' MURDERER TELLS COURT" was the headline of a recent article which detailed how three schoolboys got high on dagga before they entered a man's home, strangled him to death and robbed him.

Other headlines which appeared in the media lately included:

Yes, the rape and murder crises in our country must be addressed, and to kill a large tree it is often wise to start with the roots. The 'broken windows' theory states that maintaining and monitoring urban environments in a well-ordered condition (dealing with the 'little things' like, parking offenses, DAGGA and so on) helps to stop further vandalism and escalation into more serious crime (such as rape and murder).

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 break into the building and if it is unoccupied, perhaps become squatters. When the police begin to ignore so called 'minor' offenses, including those that are dagga related, crime and disorder will begin to take over the street. Also, where there is dagga there are usually other illegal substances and activities to be found close by.

If pro legalization lobbyists and those who use, cultivate and sell dagga, truly had it on their hearts to make the lives of our nation's police officers easier, the logical thing to do would be for them to stop smoking dagga (and breaking the law), thereby creating less work for the SAPS! These individuals would then no longer be classed as criminals, would find themselves on the right side of the law, and would enjoy a much better relationship with those whose job it is to enforce the legislation of our country. Millions of rands of tax payer's money would also be saved in the process as there would no longer be a need to arrest and prosecute them, and police officer's time could also be better utilized to address crimes like rape and murder!

"I hate drug dealers with a passion," said a woman at the conference who responded to these statements made by the "Dagga Couple". "The drug dealers are using dagga as a front for hard core drugs. Our children start with dagga, then it becomes hard core drugs. That destroys our children and communities." Here is a mother who knows that dagga is a gateway drug, that it is harmful and destroys lives and communities. She knows that regardless of any intended measures to regulate and monitor the drug should it be legalized, kids will still get their hands on dagga, and more easily than ever before - our nation will be drenched in it!

The argument that legalization would save millions spent on enforcing the laws against dagga, and make South Africa a better place to live in are false. We cannot do away with established laws because it better suits the lifestyle of a minority group. Allowing small offenses to go unchecked will result in an increase in more serious offenses that will then have to be dealt with, and which will place further strain on the budgets of the departments concerned. Perhaps harsher laws for dagga offenses are in fact needed for this very reason! A mountain of cases exist where those who were high on dagga have committed violent or sexual offenses and many have been killed on the road by drivers who were under the influence of dagga.

A similar amount, if not more, will be spent on dealing with the increase in serious crimes, as well as on treating those who become addicted to the drug or suffer from its harmful side-affects such as mental illness. A very high price we will all have to pay!

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