Perceptions of the Lindelani community on legalising cannabis for medical purposes in South Africa.
Ngcobo, Mbongeni Eugene.
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Despite the existing criminal sanctions attached to cannabis growth and use, it remains by far the most consumed and trafficked drug globally. Regulating and controlling cannabis has been a considerable challenge in South Africa due to its abundance and easy access. The call for legalising cannabis for medicinal purposes in South Africa has been growing, as is the case globally, with many reported benefits for a range of diseases and health conditions. The recent High Court ruling that cannabis be allowed for personal use marks a turning point towards its status in South Africa. Aim and objectives: This research aimed to examine public perceptions on the effect of legalising medical cannabis in South Africa on vulnerable populations. The study intends to examine potential consequences of the legalisation, focusing mainly on the influence that the legalisation would have on small poor communities. Method: This cross-sectional study explored the personal perspectives of 40 poor community residents aged 18 – 35 through qualitative interviews who were conveniently selected. They were asked about how they thought the legalisation of cannabis for medical purposes would impact on their communities. Results: The participants felt that cannabis legalisation will have more of a negative implication through its increased illegal position consumption and would result in an increase in crimes within small communities. Its ready availability is already associated with the country’s high crime rate, and it is regarded as a gateway drug to other more addictive substances. While some felt that it would create job and business opportunities, this would require adequate control and regulation. Some participants indicated that it was already used for medicinal purposes by traditional healers and were not familiar with its formulation for commercial purposes. Discussion: There were variations in their perceptions on how such changes in the legislation will impact on small communities, with specific concerns about how crime will be affected in South Africa. This study argues that decisions to change policy must be founded on a consideration of the evidence on the risks and benefits associated with such amendments to individuals and the broader society. It is important to examine and understand these changes in order to have appreciate the effects that medical Cannabis legalisation might have on an array of problems, including drug markets. Should cannabis be legalised for medical purposes in South Africa, it needs to occur with caution, as this it might exacerbate the already overwhelming cannabis abuse and further influence drugs related offences.