n South African Medical Journal - Medical marijuana and beyond : guest editorial

Volume 104, Issue 6
  • ISSN : 0256-9574
  • E-ISSN: 2078-5135



'Legalise marijuana for medical purposes' was the cry in Parliament that prompted the response by Charles Parry and Bronwyn Myers in this issue of SAMJ. Much parliamentary and public sentiment favoured such an action. But is this the wisest course to follow? The abuse of drugs is harmful to the individual, families and communities. Declaring war on drugs, as US President Nixon did in 1971, therefore has emotional appeal. However, despite this escalating war, the use of drugs has increased worldwide. While the war had noble intentions, it resulted in harmful unintended consequences. Criminalisation of drug use had the effect of hugely increasing the number of prisoners, who are later likely to resort to other criminal activities. The USA, the leader of the war, has the world's highest proportion of jailed citizens (707/100 000, as opposed to South Africa at 294/100 000 and India at 30/100 000). The huge profits from the drug trade corrupt users, politicians, police and financial institutions - the fight for turf by drug cartels in Mexico for drugs destined for the USA has been responsible for tens of thousands of murders and disappearances. While the effects of drugs are harmful, the consequences of the war on drugs are far worse.

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