Namibians have cautioned against legalising cannabis following Tuesday’s landmark decision by the South African Constitutional Court to decriminalise personal use of the drug.
The court ruled that the ban on personal use and possession of cannabis was unlawful, as it interfered with section 4 of the South African constitution, which allows all South African citizens the right to privacy.
Mother of five, Eunice Lot, told the Windhoek Observer on Wednesday that legalising the private use of cannabis will affect how children grow up in their households.
“Allowing every household to plant and smoke dagga (cannabis) will cause small children to start experimenting with dagga at a young age,” Lot argued. “They will grow up addicted to smoking dagga, in a dagga filled environment. The high that dagga gives you can make some people aggressive and violent, even though most people believe that it’s for relaxation.”
She added that the high from cannabis use can also make people lose touch with reality.
“Children will also not concentrate on their school work because they won’t be in the right state of mind to do so,” she said.
Lot, however, feels that cannabis use for medicinal purpose should be allowed.
“I wouldn’t have had a problem with allowing it to be used medicinally as long as the medicine is only available via prescription so that it is not abused. That way, the benefits can be achieved in a controlled environment.”
Avid church goer, Asanda Jullies, said legalising cannabis use will get in the way of one’s spiritual life.
“The high they feel will distort the way they perceive the message spoken to them in church and they could lose the connection they have with God.”
He said the decriminalisation of cannabis use will also likely result in Namibians following suit since locals love to “copy and paste” everything South African.
“We copy trends, music and even culture. So, even though Namibian law still deems the use of cannabis illegal, most children here will abuse it because they see how it is being abused in South Africa,” Jullies said.
Clinical psychologist, Shaun Whittaker, said although he is happy about the decriminalisation of cannabis, he wishes there was an age of use attached to it.
“I’m certainly against cannabis use amongst young people, especially if you are younger than 25,” he said.
“There’s massive brain development between the ages of 11 to 25 for girls and 13 to 25 for boys, the brain is very vulnerable so it is the worst time to be doing drugs, including cannabis.”
Yokany Oliveira, a student at the Namibia University of Science and Technology (NUST), said she worries that Namibians will now expect the legalisation of cannabis use just like in South Africa.
“Namibians are led by the assumption that just because South Africa has passed a law like this, we will immediately hop on to the bandwagon because it suits us and our desires,” she said.
Education, Arts and Culture Minister, Katrina Hanse-Himarwa, told the Windhoek Observer that Namibia remains governed by its own laws.
“Obviously, South Africa and Namibia have got a lot in common, but we are a sovereign country with our own laws that govern us.
“I don’t know what type of impact it will have on Namibia, but just because South Africa has legalised cannabis use, doesn’t mean that Namibia should follow suit.
“We are not their small brother, neither are we a colony of South Africa. So for now, we will be following our laws,’ Hanse-Himarwa said.
According to Whittaker, the constant use of cannabis can have both short and long-term effects on individuals.
“Short-term, if you use cannabis regularly, your brain energy level will come down, your concentration will come down and your ability to remember will deteriorate as well.
“If you speak to young people who use cannabis, their idea of being ‘laid back’ and ‘chilled’ is really about the brain energy level coming down.
“Long-term, which is heavy use for more than two years, will lead to more symptoms such as sleep deprivation. People who smoke cannabis and generally people who abuse substances, only sleep for three hours.”
He said cannabis use will also lead to auditory hallucinations.
“People will start hearing voices because they simply do not have any nutrients in the brain any longer. People can also become very paranoid. Heavy long-term use of cannabis can even lead to schizophrenia,” the psychologist said.
South Africa became the third country in Africa to legalise cannabis, following Lesotho in September 2017 and Zimbabwe in April this year.