Sun | May 28, 2017

Ganja Is Not All Good

Published:Monday | March 16, 2015 | 3:00 AM

I do not agree with, support or encourage the use of ganja but I agree with amending the Dangerous Drugs Act to decriminalise small amounts for personal use for whatever reason. I have always found that arresting, charging, convicting, sometimes imprisoning and marring the record and, therefore, stymying an individual's opportunities in life for the personal use of a little weed is ridiculous, cruel, hypocritical and dangerous.

We know that, as far as your health is concerned, smoking cigarettes and/or drinking alcohol in excess are more dangerous than smoking, drinking or eating marijuana ... yet they are perfectly legal and socially accepted. The biggest danger from ganja is its illegal status that makes it a source of illicit income by criminal means, and facilitates its trade for deadly items like very dangerous (hard) drugs and guns.

My current concern is that people, including youngsters, may interpret the decriminalisation as an acceptance/vindication and legalisation of the drug ... it is not. Already, we have reports of some people engaging in open cultivation and trade in the stuff.

And, I have heard of male high-school students who literally stroll into their class smoking their spliff during class time, with their teacher present and no one can do anything about it without risking their lives. These incidents occur in several high schools, but no one is ever going to come right out and report it publicly. And now that smoking ganja is no longer a serious offence, woe be onto the teacher who dares to try to stop such a student.

 

INTENSIVE PUBLIC EDUCATION

 

Although, in spite of all that, I still agree with decriminalising ganja, I would have liked to see the process preceded by at least six months of intensive public education on the drug. Some users argue that ganja occurs naturally and therefore its use is okay. But not all naturally occurring substances are good for you, some are poisonous.

Ganja is not innocuous. Many claim that the drug relaxes them and allows them to calm down and 'meditate'. Even if that appears to be true for some people (it could be a misperception/placebo effect), I always remind proponents of 'natural products' that for anything to do something for you, it must first do something to you; and that something may not be good for you.

Ganja can precipitate schizophrenia temporarily when used in excess or permanently in susceptible individuals. Smoking anything will irritate the lungs (and can cause cancer), and taking a mind-altering drug like cannabis (in whatever form), can be dangerous. In brief, cannabis (ganja, marijuana), contains the chemical, delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), which attaches itself to cannabinoid receptor cells in the brain that are usually activated by naturally occurring brain chemicals similar to the THC molecule.

The high from cannabis is caused by an over activation of the cannabinoid receptors, which are concentrated in the parts of the brain concerned with pleasure, memory and other higher brain functions. This over-activation impairs these functions and impacts negatively on normal brain development and activity.

Appropriately extracted components of ganja appear to have beneficial medical effects for some diseases but smoking, drinking or eating the weed makes addicts of about 10 per cent of adults and up to 50 per cent of young users. The young are much more vulnerable to the ill effects of weed. Many perform poorly in school and fail to realise their goals in life.

Since we have decided to decriminalise the drug, we have a responsibility to investigate the role that ganja may be playing in poor academic performance in some schools, the preponderance of underperforming/lackadaisical males, violent activities and automobile crashes.

I urge all those youngsters who see smoking the weed as a rite of passage into adulthood, a social symbol of independence/rebelliousness or as an anxiolytic agent to think again. Because of the potential danger, everyone should have a critical look at ganja... that spliff may be doing you more harm than good.

Garth A. Rattray is a medical doctor with a family practice. Email feedback to columns@gleanerjm.com and garthrattray@gmail.com