By Dandrej Barnard
There are those who staunchly oppose the legalisation of cannabis. The Concerned Young People of South Africa (CYPSA) are in the vanguard of the opposition. They have done their own study showing that 96.1% of adolescent males who try drugs for the first time, will try cannabis. Their chief concern centres around the gateway theory, stating that cannabis will, undoubtedly and in every case, lead to addiction to ‘hard’ drugs and a life of crime. They further cite mental decline and the damage cannabis does both psychologically and socio-economically as chief reasons for it to remain outlawed and punishable by prison terms.
There are a few problems with their argument, predominantly a severe and persisting lack of insight and evidence. It is nothing new for a group to manipulate facts to suit their own agenda but what we see with groups like CYPSA is a systemic and deeply ingrained refusal to consider the matter of cannabis legalisation objectively. CYPSA is a great organisation in theory, as their goal is to support the youth of South Africa in being all that they can be. They encourage youths to say no to drugs and run a drug rehabilitation centre in Durban. In practice however, their hubris is damaging that which they value most, the future of young South Africans.
That 96% of teenage boys who try drugs for the first time smoke cannabis, should be an indication of where we stand as a nation. Prohibition does not work. History teaches us this time and again. We have tried prohibition and it has resulted in a prolific illicit drug trade where these teenage boys now come into contact with dangerous people who would relish the opportunity to sell them a host of drugs far more dangerous and addictive than cannabis. The simple fact is: kids are going to smoke weed no matter how illegal it is, and by legalising cannabis we will be able to exercise some measure of control and remove the need to interact with high risk individuals like drug dealers, in dangerous areas. As a teenager in South Africa right now, at this very moment, it is much easier to procure a ‘banky’ of cannabis than a bottle of brandy.