By Dandrej Barnard Pt 3

The cannabis legalisation movement is also the loudest advocates for ‘Responsible Adult Use’, the key word being ‘adult’. The anti-legalisation movement does not understand that, fundamentally, we want the same thing in this regard. We want our children to stay off drugs, and  pro-legalisation proponents will be the first to admit that the absolute last thing a developing brain needs are additional chemicals. Just as we are trying to protect our kids from tobacco and alcohol, we are trying to inform them about cannabis. But once someone is of age and informed about the effects of substances, who has the right to tell them how they should live their life or what they should put in their bodies? Certain parties such as South Africans Against Dagga and Satan believe they have this right. There are those who have diametrically opposed views to those of the cannabis dissidents, such as the followers of Rastafarianism, who perceive cannabis to be their holy sacrament and believe strongly in the positive properties of the plant.

A person’s beliefs is a powerful thing. If you believe something strongly enough, you may feel that you do not need evidence to substantiate opinions. A problem arises then, when you use your belief to corroborate facts and your convictions to substantiate arguments. A very telling example comes straight from the flyer the CYPSA handed out at the Pretoria High Court this week. “Dagga suppresses one’s immune system and causes genetic changes in DNA.” Both of the statements in that sentence are not factually correct and taken wildly out of context. According to “Immuno-cannabinoid modulation (ECS) can help regulate or vary the properties, tone, and overall function of the immune system.” It is not nearly as simple as “suppressing the immune system”, a fact many doctors have used to their advantage when treating auto-immune diseases with cannabinoids. The second part of the statement regarding DNA mutation is far more complicated…

A quick Google search for ‘Cannabis causes genetic changes’ reveals a handful of news headlines stating exactly that. “Smoking cannabis ALTERS your DNA causing mutations that can trigger serious illness, including cancer.” – The problem with this news headline, like all the others, is that they are based on the same scientific study. All of them misconstrue the facts in favour of sensationalist headlines. The study the news outlets are referring to is one done by two researchers from the University of Western Australia. Their findings were published in a peer reviewed journal that focuses on Mutation Research. The focus of their work: Research exploring the hypothesis that cannabis use causes errors in human DNA, leading to cancer and affecting brain development in unborn babies. The study was focused on the effects cannabis use has on babies in utero. Their study was also a purely academic one, with all their findings based on other scientists research. They did no practical experiments or studies of their own. If we are then going to compare cannabis to alcohol and cigarettes, the findings of the study that pregnant women put their infants at risk when smoking cannabis should be stated as such and not sold as: ‘Smoking Cannabis will mutate your DNA!’