News / South Africa

Gosebo Mathope
3 minute read
20 Apr 2017
3:55 pm

Christian party on the warpath over dagga ruling

Gosebo Mathope

The ACDP alleges the herb affects your IQ, motivation levels and ability to drive.

Picture: Thinkstock

The recent Western Cape High Court ruling that declared it legal for people to grow and smoke dagga in their own homes may go up in flames.

That is if the African Christian Democratic Party (ACDP) gets its way.

In the ruling, the court found that current legislation did not pass Constitutional Court muster and gave parliament two years to bring it in line with the supreme law of the country. This was the same route followed more than 10 years ago when the ConCourt gave Parliament two years to legislate same-sex marriages.

The ACDP, the same party that unequivocally opposed same sex marriage, said in a statement that “dagga has scientifically been proved to be addictive and drastically reduces intelligence or mental capacity”.

The party also alleges dagga is also known to be a gateway to other drugs and increases the number of high school dropouts, particularly in rural and disadvantaged communities.

Speaking to The Citizen, Jo-Ann Downs, the ACDP chairperson, said ruling that cannabis can be inhaled behind closed doors and in privacy at home would not guarantee that children will not be able to gain access to it, as happens with cigarettes.

Downs also made a connection between the high rate of car accidents in South Africa and dagga smoking. She says just because a study in South Africa has not been conducted on this effect, it does not rule out the possibility that drivers crash because they are high. They cite an international study that indicates this, as well as the fact that other neurological deficits occur.

“We will be writing to the speaker of parliament to ask her to convene a special debate looking at issues such as whether dagga smokers develop dependency, drop their IQ and reduce their ambition. And if the government does not appeal the ruling, we as the ACPD will approach the court and do so,” Downs said.

Justice spokesperson Adv Mthunzi Mhaga said that should the state decide to appeal the ruling, the department of health would be the lead appellant while his department would provide legal guidance.

The department of health was unable to confirm whether there has been such a decision at Cabinet level.

The ACDP took issue with an earlier version of this article that used the words “stupid and lazy” to refer to dagga users, which was paraphrased by The Citizen and based on the fact that according to the studies the ACDP was referencing, long-term daily use of dagga allegedly affected IQ, drive and the emotional centres of the brain.

A study they referenced also showed that accidents were allegedly twice as likely to happen under the influence of dagga. The story has been updated to reflect the fact that the ACDP used an international study to back up its claim that smoking dagga reduces driving ability and neurological function. The earlier version of this story reported that they said they did not have any evidence for this, though that was a reference to the fact that no local research has been conducted on the phenomenon.

They complained that they sent The Citizen their official statement naming one of their sources, and this was ignored.

The article has been updated to more accurately reflect the ACDP’s comments, and The Citizen apologises for the oversight and confusion that may have been caused.