The theory that cannabis is a gateway to harder drugs was a theory to scare the world and justify criminalisation of the plant.
Taking the stand on day six of the “dagga trial” at the High Court in Pretoria yesterday, defence expert witness Professor David Nutt said the popular theory has not been born out by the facts, and cannabis users will not necessarily end up using hard drugs.
The hearing comes after Jules Stobbs and Myrtle Clarke, better known as the “dagga couple”, challenged the court to legalise the substance after they were arrested for possession and dealing in marijuana in 2010.
Nutt, a British psychiatrist and neuropsychopharmacologist specialising in harmful effects of drugs on the brain, elaborated on the effects of the illegal substance.
“People who smoke cannabis are likely to smoke tobacco. Does that mean tobacco is a gateway drug to cannabis?
“One thing that is clear is that people who deal drugs want drug users to be on something more addictive and dependent than cannabis. People who use cannabis meet dealers who sell harder drugs,” Nutt explained.
To avoid exposure to harder drugs, Nutt used the Netherlands as an example, where communities were introduced to cannabis coffee shops.
“They knew their kids would be interested in experimenting with cannabis. They use coffee shops to encourage young people to go somewhere and get cannabis so they would not be subjected to offers of harder drugs. It was designed to stop the gateway.
“If the [dependency] gateway theory were true, there would be a much higher usage of heroin in the Netherlands. It is the prohibition of cannabis that is a gateway to harder drugs. Not the drug itself,” Nutt testified.
But founder of Oasis of Hope Rehab Centre in Arcadia, Trevor Buckland, rejected Nutt’s conclusions, saying most of his patients were first introduced to drugs through smoking cannabis, as it was easily available.
“Contrary to what our learned friend said today, cannabis is a gateway drug,” he said.