Dagga is a danger to health; don’t legalise it — Doctors For Life

[notice]An article by writer and political activist Dale McKinley, proposing that cannabis (dagga) offers health benefits and should be legalised has been published in some South African newspapers recently. Dr Albu van Eeden, CEO of Doctors For Life International, a Christian-based organisation, has responded to McKinley’s proposals, with a press release which is published in full below. Van Eden opposes the legalisation of cannabis on medical grounds.[/notice]

It is with interest that Doctors for Life noticed a posting on a website by Dale T. McKinley on the legalization of cannabis (dagga), and that some newspapers have printed it as an article. Even though I respect him for plucking up the courage to wade into this very controversial issue, I would like to caution him against using medical arguments. If he wants to use emotional arguments and blend them with being politically correct, that’s fine. Also, quoting one doctor does not make your premise medically sound. After all, one will actually be able to even get some doctors who smoke cannabis/dagga themselves, who will try and argue in favor of the so-called “health benefits” of dagga/cannabis. Making use of the odd multiple sclerosis (ms) patient smoking dope to make him/her feel better about their MS also does not ratify it scientifically either. I don’t know whether Mr. Mckinley realizes the implications of the legislation he is arguing for. Would he really want a team of doctors and anesthetists to perform open heart surgery or brain surgery on him while they are high on dope?

I am taking the liberty of commenting on the article as a medical professional, with the hope that my letter will receive the appropriate exposure in order to encourage an open debate on the matter.

In recent years, considerable progress has been made, including the discovery of specific cannabis receptors in the brain. Researchers have also identified THC-like substances produced by the body itself (endocannabinoids) which bind to these receptors. These findings tie in with certain of the effects and side-effects produced by cannabis, above all its effects on psychomotor and cognitive functions and its mood altering capabilities.

When cannabis is smoked, the THC level in the blood rises quickly, reaching its maximum within a few minutes. If the drug is taken by mouth and stomach (e.g. by eating cookies or chocolate containing cannabis), the maximum THC level is achieved after 30 to 60 minutes (depending on whether the taker is fasting or not). The maximum subjective effect more or less coincides with the blood level. The duration of intoxication is directly dependent on the size of the dose.

Cannabis contains more than 400 substances, the best known being the psychoactive tetrahedronannabinols (THC). With a slight generalization, cannabis can be said to produce two kinds of intoxicating effect. On the one hand, there are euphoric and calming effects (similar to those of other drugs with a sedative effect, such as alcohol and benzodiazepines) – the taker experiences calm, relaxation, a feeling of happiness and of distance from everyday life. On the other hand, there are more dramatic impacts on the taker’s emotions and cognitive functions – e.g. fragmentation of thought processes, major disruption of temporal perception, distortion of sensory impressions (sound, touch, light, etc.), reduced ability to maintain attention, considerable deterioration of short-term memory/imprinting ability and, in certain cases, a noticeable introversion and dissociation of the taker from other people. At high doses, there appear – in some people, perhaps not in all – hallucinations and delusions, during which the taker does not, however, lose contact with reality. The THC levels differ in different plants, the different areas the plants may come from and even the different places on one plant where the leaves may be harvested from

CANNABIS IS ADDICTIVE: Cannabis abuse can evolve into cannabis dependence, which is characterized by a compulsive need for the drug, daily or almost daily consumption and difficulties in stopping. The dependence is not only psychological but also physical; the latter aspect is manifested during detoxification as withdrawal symptoms such as moderate anxiety, irritability and sleeplessness. The proportion of cannabis abusers who become dependent has been found to vary considerably in different studies; on average, it is surprisingly high. Of those who smoke cannabis at least once, 10 per cent will develop dependence at some point in their lives. This is one of the reasons why, after the legal status of marijuana was downgraded in Britain in 2005 to a less dangerous Class C drug, in 2008 the legal status of marijuana was re-upgraded again to a more dangerous Class B drug. Cannabis-dependent people are more at risk of being affected by the harmful effects of cannabis smoking, and they are also more likely to move on to other illegal drugs.

CANNABIS AND MENTAL DISORDERS: (This has received an explosion of research across the world over the past 4 years). The following mental disorders are known or strongly associated with cannabis abuse in that the abuse may cause the mental disorder, precipitate a latent mental illness or severely exacerbate an existing illness/disorder: Delirium (acute confusional states), cannabis psychosis, other psychoses, schizophrenia, anxiety disorders, depersonalization syndrome, depression, suicide and impulsively violent behavior.

OTHER EFFECTS OF CANNABIS INCLUDE: suppression of the immune system which in HIV patients can lead to Kaposi Sarcoma, birth defects of babies born to mothers who smoke cannabis, emphysema, bullae of the lungs, tumors of the head and neck, heart disease, testicular cancer, bladder cancer and so on.

THE DANGERS TO NON-USERS: Cannabis use is strongly associated with juvenile crime. Cannabis plays a role in traffic accidents. Some of the most consistently identified problems with marijuana use are the effect on memory, concentration, coordination and reaction time. The effects on driving skills and coordination are extremely serious, and marijuana is regularly implicated in trauma. Since allowing cannabis dispensaries, California has experienced significant increases in cannabis-related trauma, and cannabis addiction cases far greater than the national average. In the USA in 2009, data from the the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration of the USA, showed that marijuana was the most prevalent drug found in drivers involved in fatal vehicle accidents – approximately 28 percent of fatally injured drivers tested positive for marijuana. Cannabis is actually taking over from alcohol as the most common drug involved in motor vehicle accidents in parts of the USA. The implications for accidents in the work place are obvious.

MEDICAL MARIJUANA OR CANNABIS AS MEDICINE: It is most important to understand that legislative actions giving access to marijuana seriously jeopardize consumer protection. Generally, processes for bringing medicine to the public have been established so that science, not emotion, prevails. Medicine needs to come through the medicine control boards of countries to assure safety and efficacy. More importantly, the recent legislative initiatives in some countries to legalize cannabis tend to create medicine by popular vote. Cannabis is not a safe drug, and is far from clearly effective. There is no advantage, and indeed there is a disadvantage, to smoking marijuana over available medications. Allowing such legislation to become law is riding a wave of emotion and mob psychology that has been carefully crafted, financed, and driven by the cannabis lobby. They have declared that the medical excuse of cannabis is the battlefield to gain the overall legalization of pot. The advocates’ strategy remains the same; play to emotion, overstate the benefits of marijuana, use the medical excuse to get the camel’s nose under the tent and then push for more legal access to pot.

Cannabis advocates allege benefits of marijuana use with little or no clear scientific basis. Neither cannabis nor pure THC has ever been compared to new anti-nausea medications which are extremely effective. Cannabis can actually enhance pain because of a very narrow therapeutic window. The progression of glaucoma is not slowed, and ophthalmologists do not consider it a reasonable treatment. Cannabinoids may reduce muscle spasm, but they damage gait in Multiple Sclerosis patients. While cannabinoids stimulate appetite, they appear to increase body fat rather than lean body mass. No credible evidence exists that marijuana is beneficial for depression, drug abuse, headaches, or menstrual cramps. Time and again we find that most frequent medical excuse users are young people manipulating the system by complaining of pain syndromes that are usually seen in much older patients

Supporting medical excuse cannabis either reflects serious ignorance of the medical literature, or a malignant misrepresentation of it. Medicine and policy makers must stop this circus of medicine by popular vote which is dangerous, and which plays into the pot of the legalization lobby.

Smoking any substance causes the smoker to inhale cancer causing substances. It is for that reason that no medicine is administered by smoking it. Dope smokers have been found to inhale deeper than cigarette smokers and to keep the smoke in the lungs longer before exhaling (ammonia levels were 20 times higher in the marijuana smoke than in the tobacco smoke, while hydrogen cyanide, nitric oxide and certain aromatic amines occurred at levels 3-5 times higher in marijuana smoke). Cannabis smoke contains seven times more tar and carbon monoxide than cigarette smoke. According to researchers from the French National Consumers’ Institute, smoking three cannabis joints will cause you to inhale the same amount of toxic chemicals as a whole pack of cigarettes.

SOME ENDORSEMENTS:

Antonio Maria Costa, Executive Director of the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime, noted already in March 2007 “The debate over the drug is no longer about liberty; it’s about health.” He continued, “Evidence of the damage to mental health caused by cannabis use–from loss of concentration to paranoia, aggressiveness and outright psychosis–is mounting and cannot be ignored. Emergency-room admissions involving cannabis is rising, as is demand for rehabilitation treatment. …It is time to explode the myth of cannabis as a ‘soft’ drug.”

The American Glaucoma Society (AGS) has stated that “although marijuana can lower the intraocular pressure, the side effects and short duration of action, coupled with the lack of evidence that its use alters the course of glaucoma, preclude recommending this drug in any form for the treatment of glaucoma at the present time.”

Scientists at Sweden’s Karolinska Institute, a medical university, have advanced their understanding of how smoking marijuana during pregnancy may damage the fetal brain. Findings from their study, released in May 2007, explain how endogenous cannabinoids exert adverse effects on nerve cells, potentially imposing life-long cognitive and motor deficits in afflicted new born babies

The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) believes that “[a]ny change in the legal status of marijuana, even if limited to adults, could affect the prevalence of use among adolescents.” While it supports scientific research on the possible medical use of cannabinoids as opposed to smoked marijuana, it opposes the legalization of marijuana.9

Researchers from the University of Oulu in Finland interviewed over 6,000 youth ages 15 and 16 and found that “teenage cannabis users are more likely to suffer psychotic symptoms and have a greater risk of developing schizophrenia in later life.”

Robin Murray, a professor of psychiatry at London’s Institute of Psychiatry and consultant at the Maudsley Hospital in London, stated that the British Government’s “mistake was rather to give the impression that cannabis was harmless and that there was no link to psychosis.”

The National Multiple Sclerosis Society (NMSS) has stated that it could not recommend medical marijuana be made widely available for people with multiple sclerosis for symptom management, explaining: “This decision was not only based on existing legal barriers to its use but, even more importantly, because studies to date do not demonstrate a clear benefit compared to existing symptomatic therapies and because side effects, systemic effects, and long-term effects are not yet clear.”

The British Medical Association (BMA) voiced extreme concern that downgrading the criminal status of marijuana would “mislead” the public into believing that the drug is safe. The BMA maintains that marijuana “has been linked to greater risk of heart disease, lung cancer, bronchitis and emphysema.”11 The 2004 Deputy Chairman of the BMA’s Board of Science said that “[t]he public must be made aware of the harmful effects we know result from smoking this drug.”

The American Cancer Society (ACS) “does not advocate inhaling smoke, nor the legalization of marijuana,” although the organization does support carefully controlled clinical studies for alternative delivery methods, specifically a tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) skin patch.

And so the list goes on and on and on.

Even Holland appears to have now started the long road back after having legalized cannabis for some years. In the 1970’s individuals were allowed to buy 5g of marijuana at a time. Marijuana use among 18 to 20 year olds consequently increased from 15% to 44%. In 2004 Netherlands government implemented an action plan to discourage marijuana use. In 2008 Amsterdam started closing 43 coffee shops. Next, coffeeshops within a certain radius from schools were closed in December 2009. In Nov 2010 coffeeshops a certain distance from borders were closed to foreigners. In May 2011 Holland fully banned all tourists from visiting coffeeshops, the reason? Once legalized, the government was unable to separate the criminal element in the trade of cannabis from the legal trade. The coffeeshops had become a legal avenue for some drug syndicates to sell their goods. A letter from the Dutch Minister of Health at the time stated that “…This law will put an end to the nuisance of criminality associated with the coffeeshops and drugs trafficking.”

As mentioned in the beginning of the letter, most if not all of the statements made can be supported by multiple studies, by respected institutions, often representing the official stances of the national bodies of countries.

41 Comments

  1. It is clear from a medical point of view that Dagga is bad for your health. What more do you need in this debate?? It’s not about choice, but about sound medical science!

  2. Welcome to 2012 Dr Albu van Eeden, your article is absolute nonsense!!

    The DEA’s Administrative Law Judge, Francis Young concluded: “In strict medical terms marijuana is far safer than many foods we commonly consume. For example, eating 10 raw potatoes can result in a toxic response. By comparison, it is physically impossible to eat enough marijuana to induce death. Marijuana in its natural form is one of the safest therapeutically active substances known to man. By any measure of rational analysis marijuana can be safely used within the supervised routine of medical care.
    Source: US Department of Justice, Drug Enforcement Agency, “In the Matter of Marijuana Rescheduling Petition,” [Docket #86-22], (September 6, 1988), p. 57.

    “The most dangerous thing about marijuana would be if a bale of it fell
    on you.” – Dr. David P. Friedman, Department of Physiology and
    Pharmacology, Wake Forest University School of Medicine

    “Cannabis could easily replace nearly half the pharmaceuticals physicians now prescribe and is orders
    of magnitude less harmful than alcohol or tobacco.” -Dr. Lester Grinspoon Associate Professor Emeritus
    of Psychiatry at Harvard Medical School

  3. If dagga is so bad and has no medicinal benefits as you seem to be pointing towards in your article then how come 17 US states and the District of Washington have now enacted legislation permitting medical marijuana for patients with California being the first way back in 1996?
    In fact three of those states i.e. Oregon, Washington and Colorado now have measures on their state ballots for full marijuana legalization this November.
    I’d also just like to add that I find it very strange that the US government since 2003 has held a patent (Patent No. U.S. 6,630,507 B1) on all cannabinoids, the therapeutically active chemical compounds in the cannabis plant, while their official stance which they maintain via the Food and Drug Agency (FDA) is that cannabis has no medicinal benefit.

    This patent was the outcome from research conducted by:

    • Dr. Aiden J. Hampson, a neuropharmacologist at the National Institute for Mental Health (NIMH) in Bethesda, Maryland

    • Dr. Julius Axelrod (1912-2004), Professor Emeritus, National Institutes of Health, pharmacologist and neuroscientist who shared the 1970 Nobel Prize in Physiology and Medicine

    • Dr. Maurizio Grimaldi , professor of neurology/neuropsychopharmacology and toxicology, NIMH.

    Sounds to me like someone is not being entirely honest with us.

    Some famous Christian personalities in the United States have also come out in support of medical marijuana among them Pat Robertson an evangelical leader with a career spanning 5 decades.

    “There is nothing concealed that will not be disclosed, or hidden that will not be made known.”
    -Jesus, Matthew 10:26

  4. I hope your children all fall prey to the temptation all around them, experiment with cannabis. Then they will be caught by the police and imprisoned. They will have to fend for themselves against the worst of the worst. You really do need to come with to visit the cells some time my judgemental Christian friend. Cannabis has never killed anyone, yet wine and alcohol is leading to over 10% of children being born with brain damage. Over half of non natural deaths were drunk. 65% of homicide victims were drunk. Grow up and do some real research. Find me ONE body attributable to cannabis. Just one. Can’t do it. Once your children have a criminal record they won’t be able to find work and even worse they won’t be able to travel. I expect better from Christians everywhere. Be honest about drugs and don’t lie or intentionally misrepresent the truth. Or maybe one day your child will come home in tears because they have been stripped-searched naked by the school in the name of drugs. I am sure you will be a proud parent then.

  5. Tiaan Oosthuizen

    I have been scientifically studying and experimenting the effects and cause of Cannabis at the Ampath laboratories and I can say that what this man wrote can be concidered a load of broad spectrum nonsense. He should have his license to practice removed for this. Even as a religious man he has failed.

  6. Dear Dr

    I have a very good friend who is dying from a rare degenerative disease. He finds that cannabis works much better than all the other drugs combined and he treats several symptoms of his disease with the drug. Should I call the police on him?

  7. The South African government acknowledged the therapeutic effects of cannabis in the 2004 South Africa Cannabis Position paper by the Central Drug Authority. http://www.wikileaks.ch/wiki/South_Africa_Central_Drug_Authority_Position_Paper_on_Cannabis,_2004

  8. The fact that people are being prosecuted and imprisoned for using marijuana, while alcohol remains a staple commodity, is surely the reductio ad absurdum of any notion that our drug laws are designed to keep people from harming themselves or others. Alcohol is by any measure the more dangerous substance. It has no approved medical use, and its lethal dose is rather easily achieved. Its role in causing automobile accidents is beyond dispute. The manner in which alcohol relieves people of their inhibitions contributes to human violence, personal injury, unplanned pregnancy, and the spread of sexual disease. Alcohol is also well known to be addictive. When consumed in large quantities over many years, it can lead to devastating neurological impairments, to cirrhosis of the liver, and to death. In the United States alone, more than 100,000 people annually die from its use. It is also more toxic to a developing fetus than any other drug of abuse. (Indeed, “crack babies” appear to have been really suffering from fetal-alcohol syndrome.) None of these charges can be leveled at marijuana. As a drug, marijuana is nearly unique in having several medical applications and no known lethal dosage. While adverse reactions to drugs like aspirin and ibuprofen account for an estimated 7,600 deaths (and 76,000 hospitalizations) each year in the United States alone, marijuana kills no one.26 Its role as a “gateway drug” now seems less plausible than ever (and it was never plausible). In fact, nearly everything human beings do—driving cars, flying planes, hitting golf balls—is more dangerous than smoking marijuana in the privacy of one’s own home. Anyone who would seriously attempt to argue that marijuana is worthy of prohibition because of the because of the risk it poses to human beings will find that the powers of the human brain are simply insufficient for the job.

    Sam Harris- The End of Faith

  9. Another way of looking at the Dutch situation is that the Dutch are keeping all the cannabis for themselves and not sharing it with anyone else. This has just driven the trade underground.

  10. Dana Lawless (yes really)

    I have used marijuana from 19 years old till now! I am 48, I have been told by non users, I am happier, calmer, more productive and a safer driver! ‘when I am high’ I would prefer open heart surgery from a doctor ‘high on dope’an as they would have single minded focus and determination that would see a better result then a ‘straight’ surgeon! I’m just saying!

  11. Athele Oosterbroek

    I’m with Sasha. In fact, its so obvious I’m left wondering who has what vested interest in maintaining the status quo.

  12. What a load of non-factual rubbish. Pure money making exercise. The plant has been used safely for over a thousand 1000 years and not one death.
    You just know the truth when the comments section contains more factual information than the story!!

  13. And what about all these people who healed them self’s with Cannabis Sativa oil? Doctors had given up on them after poisoning their bodies with chemo and radiation. In a anonymous inquire don by a university in the USA . they asked oncologist if they would treat family with chemo and/or radiation? 75% said no because it did not work and would only undermine the immune-system. This is only one health improving properties of Canabis Sativa , one of the many.Biggest drug problem in the world. Bigger then all the drug problem combined is Alcoholism. So enjoy your glass of wine tonight.

  14. Dear Dr van Eeden,

    I read your article with keen interest, and feel I do have to bring the following to your attention:

    1) Cannabis is addictive – I honestly have to dispute this fact. Quite a few of my friends are regular smokers, however they do not feel the need to smoke every day. No, they do not get withdrawal symptoms if they skip a day, two days or even two weeks. Can you please give us links to research that CONCLUSIVELY proves your position?

    2)Cannabis and mental disorders – Many OTC medication AS WELL AS prescription medication can cause the mental problems you named, especially anti-depressants, etc. In fact, it is listed as possible side effects on the information leaflet supplied with the medication. Can we please ban all the medication that can possibly cause mental disorders? Since you have the guts to take a stance against cannabis, will you have the guts to take a stance against these medications also, or are you scared that you might lose some “perks”? We are all aware the pharmaceutical companies have deep pockets, and that they will do anything from handing out pens to taking doctors on vacations, just to get them to prescribe their medication.

    3) Other effects of cannabis – Again, all these problems can be caused by medication, the modern lifestyle, tobacco and alcohol use. Are you aware of how many chemicals are in your environment, and how many chemicals you put in your body on a daily basis? All the chemicals build up in your body, causing the problems you listed and more.

    4) Dangers to non-users – Juvenile crime is strongly associated with alcohol use, other drugs and being a teenager! Alcohol use also play a huge role in traffic accidents, as well as tired drivers, unroadworthy vehicles, and plain bad driving. Alcohol and being tired (and a combination thereof) have an effect on memory, concentration, coordination and reaction time, which cause serious effects on driving skills, not to mention it being the cause of workplace accidents.

    5) Cannabis as medicine – Here I quote you directly: “Generally, processes for bringing medicine to the public have been established so that science, not emotion, prevails. Medicine needs to come through the medicine control boards of countries to assure safety and efficacy”. Seriously? Do you honestly believe that? When you look at the possible (and proven) side effects of modern medicine, you have to wonder at the “safety” thereof. Here I have to direct your attention again to pharmaceutical companies that will do anything to get their medicine on the market. May I also remind you of the meaning of the word “lobbyist”? Fact is, medicines do get approved when the safety and efficacy thereof is doubtful, for the simple reason that money got involved, as well as emotion on a certain level. There are many incidences where medication has been approved by control boards, only to be withdrawn from the market years later, due to the hidden side-effects. I’d be happy to supply you with a list, but I trust that as a medical doctor you should be aware of these already?

    I would also like to point out what some recent research has proven:

    a) The effect of sugar on the body. As a medical doctor, I really hope you are aware of this. If not, I would suggest medical publications. Yes, the findings have been published.
    b) Sugar as a gateway drug: Are you aware of the research finding pointing to the fact that sugar in childhood can lead to alcohol abuse in later years?
    c) Cannibinoids are found in breast milk of non-smoking mothers. Yes dear Dr van Eeden, it is. Does that mean breast milk should be banned?

    In summing up, the effects of cannabis use you listed, is prevalent to cannabis alone, and it would be impossible to ban everything that has the same effects.

    If God created it, why shouldn’t we trust it? Does God make mistakes? Yet you trust in man-made substances, thereby putting your trust not in God but man, a very fallible creation indeed.

  15. Hello, my name is Imraan Mohamed, I’m 17 years old and in grade 11 now. A few years back I was experiencing the most severe migraine headaches in my temple, and all over my head. Sharp, stabbing pains, non-stop, I went to sleep. with it, I woke up with it. I was in hospital for about 3 weeks, conducting MRI scans, 2 lumbar punctures and many other tests. In the meantime I was pumped full of tablets, ranging from trepiline, salterpain, and other heavy painkillers, nothing helped. It was discovered that it was caused by a rugby I hadn’t been aware of in my neck and shoulder, travelling along my spinal cord to my head. I was told nothing could be done other than some physio and learning to live with it. I went for acupuncture, physio, and it helped somewhat, but the pain always found it’s way back. By June 2010 I was consuming 6 -8 painkillers a day, and my body was, unknown to me, addicted to codeine. When this was discovered and I had to go through a medication “rehab” like some junkie, I had had enough. I started living with the pain, refusing to take prescription meds, as it was affecting my already weak immune system. Then, being a teenager, I started smoking cannabis, to experiment like all others, and after a while I noticed I was pain free while high. Now, being Muslim and all, with cannabis taboo in my religion, I was confused. Should I live with pain, or alleviate it with this “harmful drug”? Then, being a critical and open minded person as I am, I started doing research, and discovered, with the help of cannabis allowing me to be more open minded, that I was being lied to! Being an A student at school, I expected my grades to drop, as I had always believed that it “kills your brain cells”. To this day however, in my last report I achieved 5 As, including my languages, maths, and an extra subject, Advanced Programme Maths, which deals with higher grade and varsity level maths. From using it every other day to ease my pain, I started using less and less, to the point that now, I don’t have anymore headaches other than the few occasional stress headaches. However, I do still smoke on occasion, when the fast pace of the world gets too much for me, and I know of fellow students who choose to use alcohol for the same reason. Further, a little while before the headaches started, my grandfather had passed away because of lung cancer. Now he wasn’t a smoker, but was exposed to 2nd hand smoke. Then last year, my other grandfather was diagnosed with lung cancer, him being a heavy smoker for nearly 50 years. Today, I’m glad to say that with the help of hemp oil and radiation, he is free of cancer, and a much better, friendlier, and happy person. I just wish I had known then about hemp oil, and might have saved ny grandfathers life too. Which is why it pains me to see your statement that cannabis causes cancer, when the exact opposite is true. The evidence is there, but it seems you believe the lies government organizations feed us about it, and I don’t think it’s right that you should state the wrong facts to people. This has been going on for too long, it’s time to expose the truth. I happen to disagree with all of your accusations, as I have seen, and been under the influence of cannabis, and have NEVER had a violent thought, or an outbreak of psychosis to mention a few. Don’t spread lies. Spread the truth :)

  16. Passing onlooker

    Rubbish, nonsense…
    More baseless, unfounded, skewed propaganda. To what end?

    Here’s the kicker: The British Ministry of Justice has maintained that Cannabis/dagga is of no medicinal value whatsoever. Yet, the British Home office sees fit to grant GW pharma licence to grow skunk for a product soon to available in SOuth Africa and globally.
    Your story is old and worn, we can see through the lies and the half-truths.
    Dagga is NOT addictive, it is habitual, most things we enjoy in life become habitual.
    Dagga is a mild stimulant and it has no adverse, harmful affects(and this is a quote from GW pharma, approved by the British Government)
    This continued propaganda falls flat on its face since the people and authorities you quote have already admitted that Dagga is wonderful and useful. The world has realized who the deceivers are.

  17. Its always good to do more research from more sources. Not just the the people that profit from the illegal status of cannabis. What are your thoughts on marinol? I would rather trust nature than something synthesized by man for profit. More importantly prosecuting and judging people for using a plant for whatever purpose is not ethical, human beings have a right to do what they wish to their bodies, you can give scientific data and offer help if you wish but what does it help to punish people for a victimless crime? What does it help to use taxpayers money and police power to cut down plants and prosecute cannabis users while people are getting murdered and raped in our country (34% of which involve alcohol). Lets focus our attention on the real problems and put this cannabis witch hunt to rest, because it truly is getting boring and the people that truly know all the positive benefits of cannabis just want to be left in peace. These are not junkies and people that can’t fit in with society, they are freethinkers, lawyers, dentists, doctors and every other kind of profession you can think of who simply choose to light a joint than smoke a cigarette or drink a brandy. Leave them be

  18. I’m also always surprised at many christians views on cannabis. judge not les yea be judged? “Lord, when did we see thee sick or in prison and came unto thee?” And the King will answer and say unto them, “Verily I say unto you, inasmuch as ye have done it unto one of the least of these my brethern, ye have done it unto me.” — Matthew 25:39-40

  19. I don’t see why cannabis should not be legalized. I’m sick & tired of people saying how dangerous it is. What bollocks. I have never heard of anyone dying in a car accident because they were stoned, but it happens often with alcohol.
    I’ve never heard of anyone overdosing on marijuana, but it happens with prescription drugs.
    And please, stop bringing religion into it. Weare sick & tired of you people forcing your beliefs on us.
    Smoke a joint & chill a bit

  20. The mark of a well written article on a topic such as this, starts with an impartial stating of all the facts both good and bad. Then in conclusion, an observation (once again – impartial) as to which direction the evidence may lean. This piece clearly does not do this. Dr van Eeden has chosen to ignore (and keep from his reader) any of the positive attributes of this beautiful plant and therefore comes across as being extremely biased.

    All of that aside, and regardless of whether cannabis is good or bad, if a person decides to engage in an activity and is not harming anyone else by doing so, then he/she should be free to continue with it.

    The oppressive mindset of controlling people with rules and laws to prevent them from hurting themselves, is nothing if not absurd. Hurting someone else – that’s a different story.

    The fact is people will do what they want to do, regardless of the rules imposed by government, religion etc. As soon as you try to govern, suppress or control these desires, they go “underground”, they warp, they become perverse. Prohibition does not work period. It has failed for 100 years. Let people govern themselves and be free, and the criminal elements that accompany these “underground” behaviours naturally fall away.

    PS I am a cannabis user of 24 years. I don’t smoke any more but rather eat these days. I intend to continue using this useful plant/medicine. I am not enslaved to it – I can stop using it whenever I like, and regularly do for for long periods of time. I can honestly say that I have never personally experienced any negative health side effects due to my use.

    Namaste

  21. It should still be legal, I don’t think what I do to myself is anyone else’s concern. Medical marijuana is a lie, but I don’t care because I like getting high. This doctor fails to point out that legal prescription medication kills more people than all illicit drugs combined. I think fat people shouldn’t be allowed in to buy burgers.

  22. Cannabis is not without risks. Alcohol, tobacco, aspirin and many other substances, which are all far more dangerous, are legal, but you don’t argue for their criminalization. Why not?

  23. Dear Dr Albu van Eeden

    Your Approach to the argument.

    Your prejudice against cannabis is evident in the language you use. I am willing to listen to any argument for/or against the use of cannabis and in my day to day language I often call it dagga, dope or what have you. I am a smoker myself, so I use those terms affectionately… But you are of another persuasion, It would be clever and prudent of you to argue without prejudice. Don’t use sentences like, “Would he really want a team of doctors and anesthetists to perform open heart surgery or brain surgery on him while they are high on dope?” The term “dagga”, you should probably stay away from that too. Those of us who do smoke (practically all my friends, we are all positive and productive members of society), we know how you mean to characterise the herb, but we don’t experience it negatively.

    It’s always going to be hard to persuade others with sentences that have a prejudiced tone. For your benefit, I suggest you stick to just the facts, and you do list some, but they were kinda lost on me. Here’s my reasoning, I try to be rational, but it is hard to be absolute in every aspect of my thinking. When it comes to marijuana use, I don’t think we will ever be able to rule on it categorically, but this is true of so many things, some of them like alcohol are more dangerous and legal. On another note, I am so fed up with the rationale behind prohibition, it infantilizes the public who are actually capable of deciding for themselves, but we are never given the room to think, hence we make poor decisions, especially when it comes to our representatives.

    Although I know there are issues with dagga to be cautious about, I am a defender of cannabis, because my experience of it has never frightened me and it adds some value to my life. It’s certainly not central to my life. I moderate my activities. I love weed man, but when you try to paint the story so negatively, it disappoints me. You do this in the second paragraph already, so for the rest of the article, all I’m doing is looking for holes in your argument. I know I should just ignore your opinion, but that’s hard dude, my predisposition is counter to yours. Due to your negative characterisation I struggle to leave my ego out of it, just human nature I guess. Working on it ;)

    So, this is friendly advise about strategy, it would be better for your argument to ignore your own disposition on the matter and focus on the science, the objective answers (I know I know… objectivity? What objectivity?) exist there and are the most persuasive to all lovers of reason. Then again, not much of that going around these days, if ever it were en vogue :(

    Kind Regards
    Your “stoned” fellow
    Pete

  24. For a christian organisation to even try formulate a scientifically based argument is just popycock.

    Doctors without lives.

    Marijuana does none of the above, have you even smoked it before?

  25. “If marijuana were discovered in the Amazon rain forest today, people would be clamouring to make as much use as they could of all of the potential benefits of the plant”. Prof. Donald Abrams, Chief, Haemotology Oncology at San Fransisco State Hospital, and Prof of Medicine at the University of California SF. From “The Power of Raw Cannabis”, youtube video. Watch the video, especially those of you who believe cannabis is dangerous, and get a balanced story. The doctor above doesn’t understand that cannabis has been vilified historically, mainly for colonial reasons. It’s time to stop demonising this plant.

  26. Dear Dr Van Eeden

    Firstly, I find it quite ironic that a Christian based organisation is judging others. The medical debate regarding cannabis use is neither here nor there in the big picture. I could just as well ask you to substantiate the legality of freedom of religion on medical grounds. People kill and are killed everyday for religious reasons. But I still respect their freedom of choice to decide for themselves on whether to subscribe to a religious belief. Pharma products such as Marinol and Sativex blow your medical marijuana obection to smithereens.

    Cannabis however does not kill and those who are dying as result of its use are dying as a result of prohibition and the black market it creates. While there may be associated risks to using cannabis, these risks are signficantly lower than many legal substances that ask a much higher health price for users than cannabis ever could. One substance of which (a fast food corporation) advertises on this very website.

    For all of the opinions that you have quoted, there is a clear absence of actual evidence. Given the UN’s estimate of 224 million global cannabis users, where are all the people who are getting sick from cannabis?

    Smoking cannabis is the crudest form of ingestion, yet is the only one you have focussed on. What about the more effective means of ingestion? Eating, vaporising, tinctures, etc.

    Your comments regarding Holland show a lack of understanding as they wish to curb drug tourism and not access for its citizens. You also conveniently ommit Portugal as a succesful decrimanilization example, and that cannabis use is much lower in these countries (including Netherlands) compared to those strict enforcement countries such as the USA. Your lack of understanding of decrimanilaztion vs. legalization and the half pregnant distribution situation this creates begs belief.

    That you oppose the legalisation of cannabis on medical grounds is all good and well. But this isn’t just a medical matter.

    None of your quoted opinions name one danger of cannabis use that is any where near as damaging to users as a criminal record or imprisonment.

    It is shocking that you wish to protect youngsters by teaching them that hypocrisy is OK. What happened to educating them, so that they have a fair chance when making life decisions as youngsters or adults?

    I can only hope you see the cost of cannabis prohibition and how much it draws funds away from pressing matters, such as health care.

    Thank you for your subjective opinion on a matter you clearly know very little about.

  27. Fyi…1 of your endorsements The National Multiple Sclerosis Society is currently funding trials to test the medicinal benefits of various thc intake.
    http://clinicaltrials.gov/ct2/show/NCT00682929

  28. Dr Albu van Eeden is so clueless, It’s laughable … The benefits of the weed, God’s creation, if you will are very well documented.

  29. Good morning Dr Albu van Eeden,

    I really like this response from Doctors for Life, I gave me some very useful insight. Being an academic I always try to analyse any kind of article as objective as possible. In your introduction you mentioned that marijuana can cause hallucinations. Strangely enough I came across a colleague who told me that exactly this has happened to him, even though it is not a common side effect of marijuana.
    The introduction really seemed as if you did your homework, but what caught my eye was the last sentence in the intro: “The THC levels differ in different plants, the different areas the plants may come from and even the different places on one plant where the leaves may be harvested from.” I have no idea why no one commented on this. If I understand you correctly you are under the perception that one uses the leaves of the plant. However this is definitely not the case and a common misperception amongst non-users or uneducated people.
    The major problem I often observe in anti- as well as pro-marijuana articles is that only one side of the evidence is presented. Being a regular publisher of conference and journal articles, I have to state the fact that these one-sided articles are often regarding as inappropriate or unusable for further research. The moment only one side of an argument is presented; it clearly states that the author is trying to communicate his/her point of view, which makes the article objective and therefore useless on an academic level.
    Lastly, and probably the most important thing in today’s academic world is that people always try to prove their point of view with literature reviews and other people’s opinions. Back in the day researchers like Newton or Edison went out to physically collect the evidence rather than relying on what other people say.
    I was a huge anti-drug supporter my entire life, mainly due to how I was raised and what I heard on the media. Some circumstances lead to my first time usage of marijuana and my entire life changed. I always relied on what other people said, but the first time I physically collected my own evidence, I realised that the rest of the world and I were (and still are) fooled by this pseudo-science. Marijuana is not for everyone, but I really hope that somewhere along the line you (Dr van Eeden) will see the other side of this pseudo-science. There are things you just can’t proof with science, especially if you have no practical experience.

  30. The opinions above, looks like a team effort. But of course, in all fairness, that’s just my opinion and not sound science. But, I am not surprised at all the negative comments Dr Albu van Eeden and Doctors For Life’s dagga (marijuana) article received. Its not a controversial issue for no-reason. People like to smoke dope and get high and don’t want to be told that its harming them and that its illegal.

    However, I think most of those who commented on Dr van Eeden’s article, only read though it superficially. For example, Dr van Eeden wrote “Cannabis abuse can evolve into cannabis dependence” He didn’t say all users are addicted to Cannabis. He said according top the study “10 per cent will develop dependence at some point in their lives” Even if your friends are not part of that 10%, I am not willing to risk our youth fooling around with drugs just because a few manage to escape addiction and many other harmfull side effects. That’s like using the archaic argument that “my grandfather smoked cigarettes and lived to be a hundred”

    The alcohol example used by cannabis proponents is also old. Do you want to legalise another harmful drug for the sake of being consistent with current laws? Notably, the SA government has done a lot in recent year in admitting their failure in dealing with alcohol and tobacco problems and laws are becoming more strict.

    The states (the minority) in the USA that have allowed marijuana to be prescribed as a medicine has also done so with much controversy. A few days ago Los Angeles’s council voted to ban all marijuana dispensaries (about 900 of them) setting a precedent. LA (the 2nd largest city in the USA) lies within California that was one of the 1st states in the 90’s that allowed marijuana to be sold. Lots of other cities, universities, hospitals, companies and by-laws have moved to ban the use of marijuana. However, even if all of them decriminalise cannabis for medicinal use, it still doesn’t change the fact that smoking cannabis is harmful. With any medicine, the benefits of such a medicine has to outweigh the harmful side effects before it will (or should) be approved by medicine control counsels. Smoking as a delivery method of medicine is illogical due to the carcinogenic side effects to name only one danger.

    Regarding the comment on the controversial DEA judge Francis Young who said “marijuana is far safer than many food”: Young’s court ruling was overruled by a few DEA administrators! In 1994, the D.C. Court of Appeals affirmed the DEA Administrator’s power to overrule Judge Young’s decision (Alliance for Cannabis Therapeutics v. DEA. 15 F.3d 1131) and thus another attempt to petition change cannabis from a Schedule 1 drug to a less serious drug in the USA was officially dead. “Each of the doctors testifying on behalf of NORML (the organization that lead the petition) claimed that his opinion was based on scientific studies, yet with one exception, none could identify, under oath, the scientific studies they relied on,” DEA Administrator Thomas A. Constantine remarked in 1995. Up untill today NONE of the many of the many petitions in the USA have been successful. There are many so-called scientists and academics who are willing to defend dagga or marijuana. But that doesn’t change the facts

    If you have cancer or heart disease you would want to go to the best specialist who can give you the correct diagniosis in order to save your life. If he would tell you to change your lifestyle most people would accept that. Even if he/she has to quit eating things he/she likes. If you, however prefer to go to a doctor that just tells you what you want to hear, well that’s your business. Unfortunately you do get doctors like that. But as for sober thinking people, empirical science is still important.

    The so-called medical benefits that some claim that cannabis has is not substantiated given the negative side effects as mentioned in Dr van Eeden’s (DFL’s) article. Instead of insulting him, you should be thanking Dr van Eeden for giving you good advise.

  31. What a load of nonsense! I have smoked everyday since I was 14, I have succeeded in my career and have brought up 2 children that are assets to society.
    Right now the thing that should be outlawed is RELIGION, just look at what it has done and is doing to the world. It is mostly religious people who try to force their petty beliefs on everyone, just like this drivel that the good doc and preacher has written.
    Leave us to be free to decide what we believe in and what lifestyle we choose to follow.

  32. I was going to give you an earful for your awful, unsupported, distortions about dagga but I see the commenters have beaten me to it. They are unanimous. You are a self delusional liar motivated by a bigoted and manipulated interpretation of God’s word. If you are a genuine fool or a slimy snake working for the US$ of American Dominionist fanatics I have never been able to tell. Kudos for leaving all these comments up however.

    • Thanks for the kudos after the insults. Indeed, as editor I have no problem with giving our visitors freedom to express their views(The only comments I don’t publish are those containing obscenity or hate speech). I do believe the truth will prevail even when it is the minority view. The most authentic comment in my opinion was by Johan on August 7 but I am sure you will disagree. :)

  33. Well! What an absolute pile of doggy doo doo! I have just been through all the comments, and wow, not ONE single comment supporting you, “Dr”!

    You unfortunately hide behind two rather large smokescreens – being a “doctor” (a supposed Authority) and the shield of “christianity”, an antiquated method of controlling populations through fear and ignorance.

    The main reason I feel you have taken this stance is that “BIG PHARMA” has paid your bills, and continues to pay you; so you appear to be a charlatan. You and your bosses fear the truth that natural cures will make your multibillion dollar enterprise go away and you will be unmasked and will have to find a real ethical way of earning a living and paying for the lavish lifestyle your ken enjoys.

    I personally cannot see how you people can sleep at night, knowing that the pharmaceutical drugs, chemo and all the other tortures you visit on hapless innocents do nothing to heal them, but cause them pain and fleece them of their hard earned money. (As a “christian”, I`m saying).

    Truth will always out, dear “Dr”; let us not also mention the many millions of deaths caused by “religion”.

    Dagga or any other name you choose to use is but one of hundreds (thousands?)of plants that have been put on our Planet by our Creator that can and do cure ailments; ailments amazingly caused by chemicals put into our foods by – you guessed it! Chemical companies owned by? Yes, BIG PHARMA!

    And what about our drinking water? Just add fluoride, it`s safe! And throw in chlorine, that`ll keep you healthy! (Nazis used chlorine gas in WW2 to murder millions), but hey, it`s safe now!!

    Seriously, how do you sleep at night, knowing Monsanto and the rest of these poiseners are your bosses, or are you just another demon, hiding behind the guise of goodness with the cloaks of “Doctor” and “christianity”?

    Hopefully you are just another misguided person who did not do his own research due to long intern hours etc; but now, if you read this, that can no longer be an excuse.

    Go research, and if you are truly a good person, come over to the true side of goodness; after all, why let your studies go to waste?

    It is never too late to become ethical, and a source of good as our Creator actually intended.

    • John, you say you went through all the comments and noted that not one supported Dr van Eden’s article. You are wrong:see the excellent reply by Johan on August 7, which effectively puts the other comments into proper perspective. See also the comment just before yours — by me. LOL.

  34. Well one thing is clear from looking through the comments… an overwhelming amount of votes for cannabis and a proportionally low amount of votes against… Oh and add my vote “for”… All you nay sayers can keep on keeping on… And to the good “doctor”… what next? Denying evolution and the existence of dinosaurs? I have a January to June copy of the 1943 british medical journal that belongs on your nightstand ;)

  35. greenpuffsupplies

    Would he really want a team of doctors and anesthetists to perform open heart surgery or brain surgery on him while they are high on dope?
    what about been drunk. just cause it is legal does not mean it will be used during work time…

  36. Dagga is safer than our municipal tap water…

    Doctor tell us about the negative effects of consuming large amounts of fluoride…