Legalising dagga

14 Apr 2014 14:24 #60367 by ghaznavid
Legalising dagga was created by ghaznavid
A controversial topic, but it seems to be topical right now - and I think the implications of the result on the hiking community could be interesting.


For those who don't know - parliament is currently considering the legalisation of "medical cannabis". Some studies suggest that cannabinoids in cannabis may kill cancer cells without harming ordinary cells - others say its just an excuse for people to get high. It also would appear to be an effective painkiller.

The cannabis plant can be used to produce clothing, construction materials, paper and various other items - but with a substantially lower carbon footprint and a lower production cost than cotton, wattle etc.

There are different opinions around:
- Some say it is a harmful substance and should remain banned
- Some say it is already readily available and therefore should be legalised for medical or recreational use so that it can be regulated and taxed
- Some say it should only be legalised for medical purposes

How it may impact on us as hikers

As we know - many passes would not have trails if it wasn't for our friendly neighbours carrying their "farming produce" over the border and into SA.

Safety concerns are often cited regarding the smugglers, although I can't think offhand of any of them actually attacking hikers - but I stand to be corrected.

Right now, use of cannabis oil is just as illegal as smoking dagga. In theory, legalisation of cannabis oil would cause local suppliers to crop up (bearing in mind that dagga would still be illegal in Lesotho). This should marginally drop the black-market demand in SA and could thus reduce the price. This would, in theory, reduce the amount of traffic in the Berg.

Full legalisation - regulated in the same way as similar products such as alcohol and tobacco - could cripple the illegal trade out of Lesotho, unless Lesotho was to follow suite and the inter-state trade was regulated. What would happen would largely come down to how it is regulated and taxed - basically, if the legal product is much more expensive than black market, it is unlikely that existing consumers would go legal.

Naturally a decrease in illegal cross border trade would reduce the strain on certain passes. You could argue that the proposed cable car could be used to transport this, but I doubt the proposed fee structure would lead to this being a practical idea amongst the farmers. Perhaps some special arrangement would be made, but I can't see this working practically. And definitely not at R350 per ticket, and I don't think users would be happy with the cars smelling like dagga!

My views on the matter

I personally have never consumed any form of dagga, and never plan to. However, I do not see a reason why dagga should be illegal when tobacco and alcohol have similar mind altering effects, are similarly addictive and have similar long term health implications. Some studies suggest that tobacco is more harmful than dagga.

Similarly - I don't see why a terminally ill patient who is sent home to die should not be allowed to consume a product that might help them, or worst case scenario may function as a pain killer for their last few months of life. After all - such patients can take morphine which is more addictive and has substantially more severe side effects.

I probably would use hemp clothing if it functions as an efficient technical fabric and has cost, weight or performance benefits over current technical clothing.

As far as the mountains are concerned - I think that it would take a few decades before the difference is really felt. Change is slow in the high places of the world (no pun intended). But in the long term, the heavier use routes may have substantially less traffic. This, though, could cause some of the more obscure passes to be even less commonly used by hikers. Take Judge Pass - I would have still done it at some point, but I wouldn't have done it when I did if it didn't have a trail on it. Trails on passes like this would become overgrown and eventually their use would become as occasional as passes like Tsepeng or Jarding.

I'm curious as to everyone elses views on this topic - do you think it should be partially or fully legalised, how will it change the mountains or any other interesting points on this topic...

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15 Apr 2014 06:31 #60374 by Drakensbergie
Replied by Drakensbergie on topic Legalising dagga
The prevailing legal principle in the next century will one of Harm Reduction. World leaders from Kofi Anan to Bill Clinton have been calling for an end to the "war on drugs" that started under Nixon. Illicit drugs, at $139 billion a year, are the world's third largest commodity after oil and coffee - another drug. In short, the efforts against the use of drugs have failed and the laws that turn addicts into criminals need to change. One can actually argue that dagga should actually be re-legalised. As a crop it yields more paper and fibre and nutrition from the same harvest, in a yield per hectare sense, than any other crop. So it offers many benefits over and above the psycho-active. It is estimated to be a R12 - 15 billion black market in SA alone. The figures speak for themselves. All of the scare stories - gateway drug and the ilk - have been debunked, especially in an environment where it is legal. You don't get supplied with heroin by the same cafe where you buy your first cigarettes, after all. Its all about the supply chain... One could go on and on.
In terms of an effect on the mountain, that would be dependent on the regulatory framework established if -when- it is eventually legalised. I don't think that there would be sufficient economic stimulus for an illegal crop, that would still be illegal, merely under other conditions i.e. licensing etc., to be traded in any other way than it has for the last few decades. The farmers in Lesotho don't cater for the R100 a gram hydroponics crowd...
There are many successful models of legalisation in the world already, from Uruguay, where it is a State monopoly, to Spain and Belgium where small co-ops or "clubs" of growerss are allowed to trade between each other, to Colorado, where it is recreationally legal and creating an economic windfall that few have predicted...
In short, there are two constants in human history. One, there has always been some form of cosmology or religious attempt at understanding the Universe and also some form off getting off your face - in every culture at any time in human history. Two, attempts at suppressing the above has failed in every instance. Every one. Try telling the world to stop drinking coffee...
So yes, I support the idea.

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15 Apr 2014 08:59 #60375 by ASL
Replied by ASL on topic Legalising dagga
Hard to argue with that perspective... nicely put. Live and let live I say.

I thought that's how the Voortrekkers got their wagons over the mountains anyway? They smoked some boom and flew over!
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15 Apr 2014 10:41 #60378 by ghaznavid
Replied by ghaznavid on topic Legalising dagga
SA achieves a tax rate on GDP of roughly 25% - sounds low because of the vast majority of the population earning less than the tax threshold and not paying VAT on most of their purchases (i.e. zero rated items such as maize meal and brown bread). Also remember that roughly 34% of tax revenue is collected through personal income tax.

R12b taxed at 25% is R3b extra in tax revenue. Not massive, but its likely to draw more support than upping tax rates - so I guess it makes political sense.

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