holds a packet of the highly addictive Crystal Methamphetamine as he prepares the drug.Picture Brenton Geach

Cape Town - The National Drug Master Plan, the country’s blueprint on substance abuse, has called for an in-depth probe into whether the decriminalisation or legalisation of dagga is needed in South Africa.

The 2013-17 master plan, formulated by the Central Drug Authority, a state advisory body on substance abuse, was approved by the cabinet about a month ago and implemented with immediate effect.

On Monday the Cape Times quoted Gareth Newham, the head of the Institute for Security Studies’ crime and justice programme, and criminologist Liza Grobler as saying decriminalising drugs would weaken gangs as their main source of power and income would be ruined.

Newham said if dagga were decriminalised, police could focus their resources and clamp down on harder drugs.

Authorities, including Community Safety MEC Dan Plato, were against decriminalising the use of drugs.

The authors of the master plan said when it came to substance abuse, a balanced approach was needed to deal with the problem.

“In the field of substance abuse it is generally accepted that no single approach such as criminalising or decriminalising substances or abusers would solve the problem of substance abuse,” it said.

When it came to dagga, the master plan said it was “well known” that dagga was the second-most used “dependence-forming” substance in South Africa. It said that nine years ago, preparations for a position paper on dagga started and three years ago this paper was presented to parties for consultation.

But the master plan said the stance towards dagga, in South Africa and other countries, had since changed and further research become necessary.

“There is a need for an in-depth investigation of the dynamics of (dagga) use and related harm in South Africa, as well as the relevance of current international/local policies regarding (dagga) use, including measures such as legalisation and/or decriminalisation,” the master plan said.

“The results of this investigation should then be used to develop government policies, legislation, protocols and practices related to (dagga) use.”

The authors said little attention had been given to the problem of driving under the influence of dagga.

A resolution passed at the 54th session of the Commission for Narcotic Drugs, held two years ago in Vienna, requested that a response be developed to “drug-affected driving”.

The master plan said the response would involve collecting data on drug-affected driving and developing a way to test this at the roadside.

In terms of addressing substance abuse, the master plan said it would look at:

* Focusing on a specific community, instead of a national solution, and devising a strategy for that community.

* Applying and developing evidence-based solutions.

* Introducing “a monitoring and evaluation approach” for formulating results. This would include looking at targets and the outcomes of a strategy.

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Cape Times